The following letter was submitted by Sen. C. Anthony Muse, (D-Dist. 26) of Fort Washington.
“The Only Gaming During a Special Session Should be Doubling Down on the People’s Business”
Whether you support casinos in Maryland or not, one thing is certain, the proposed expansion of gaming will have no direct impact on the fiscal year 2013 budget. In fact, projected revenues from a proposed casino in Prince George’s County would not be realized for nearly six years, at best; and projected revenues from table games are a few years off as well.
Further, the expansion of gaming hinges on the voters of Maryland agreeing to support the referendum, which some may say is likely, but there are no guarantees. For these reasons, and many others, it seems irrational and irresponsible to tie the ability of the General Assembly to pass a responsible budget for this year to the condition that we send a question to referendum that may fail.
This is a gamble that I don’t believe the state should take.Governor Martin O’Malley was right when he said, “Our republic was not built on gambling gimmicks, bingo games or bake sales.” I believe that our republic was built on intellect, courage and humanity; and the future of our republic depends on brave men and women standing for the greater good and putting personal interests aside to get a job done for the citizens of Maryland.
We ended this session with the people’s business unfinished, because the special interest of gaming dominated the closing days of the General Assembly. As a result, Maryland must cut $512 million from education, public safety and other services.
In addition, tuition rates will increase at state universities, making higher education less affordable for our young people. My home county, Prince George’s, will likely see a $65 million reduction in state aid, resulting in cuts to k-12 education, public safety and other services.
I understand that Senate President Mike Miller and County Executive Rushern Baker have a desire to bring slot machines and table games to Prince George’s County, but I believe it is mutually exclusive from this year’s budget and should be dealt with during the course of the regular session next year.
I don’t believe it is worth gambling with the important issues that we as public servants must face today.
Just a couple of weekends ago, there were five killings and four shootings in Prince George’s, yet we are now risking cuts to public safety. Conditioning this year’s budget on gaming is at best poor judgment, or at worse one of the greatest abuses of power that this state has ever seen.
The state of Maryland is facing a structural deficit, and yet we allowed one special interest to potentially cost taxpayers additional money to bring the General Assembly back into session to pass the budget that should have been and could have been passed in the 90 days the people have allotted for us. If we allow gaming to play a role during a special session, shame on us!
We would be sending a message to the world that Maryland can be bought and bossed by special gaming interests, and that we are willing to sacrifice education, healthcare, public safety and transportation for the promise of revenues generated by slot machines and table games. I believe the people of Maryland deserve better of us. Let’s not gamble with their future.
The op-ed was edited due to an error reporting that Prince George's County Schools were ranked last in the state's education system.