I cannot believe the lies slots proponents and our elected officials are telling in order to intimidate us into voting for slots. I received a flyer in my mailbox this week that is so full of falsehoods I'm not sure how its authors sleep at night. First of all, it states that "slots opponents want to raise our taxes to pay for vital services." That is a lie - slots opponents have focused exclusively on the harm slots will do to our state and have never raised the issue of taxation. The brochure goes on to say "Question 2 takes the pressure off Maryland families by pumping $660 million of new money from slots into our local schools." That too is a lie. For one thing, the horse racing and gambling interests already have their hands out for their share of slots revenue; to suggest that the money is solely for education is bending the facts to the breaking point. Also, the Maryland Institute for Policy Analysis and Research at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County released a study last week that said the state's revenue forecasts for slots were "grossly overestimated" and may only produce half of what the pro-slots crowd is "guaranteeing" for education. The report estimates the social costs to the state could be as high as $627.5 million, practically eliminating the "new money" promised by slots supporters. The reports goes on to say that slots could produce almost 100,000 new problem and pathological gamblers, and money spent on slots does not add dollars to the economy, but diverts it from other purchases, reduces sales tax and lottery revenue and has a negative impact on the business community and the state's bottom line.
What's most maddening, however, is the same crowd that put into place the largest tax increase in Maryland history, is making statements in this flyer like "We can't afford higher taxes," "The last thing we need is new taxes," and "no new taxes." Give me a break! We don't need a lecture from the tax-and-spend crowd in Annapolis about how we don't need new taxes. The flyer then lists all the respectable organizations that are supporting slots; what it doesn't tell you is our elected officials are threatening businesses, teachers, police officers, first responders, and county officials, just to name a few, with dire consequences if they don't support the slots bill. Our esteemed Governor said earlier this month that his list of cuts includes public schools, state police, community colleges and health care programs. Why don't they zero-out the budget and start from scratch? Pay for the things that are a priority and cut the rest? Pay only for programs that have demonstrated success? Why don't we have a debate about what government should and shouldn't be funding? We had time to do this the right way but our elected officials squandered the opportunity by blowing through Governor Ehrlich's $1.4 billion rainy day fund surplus and passing a $1.7 billion tax hike so they could pay off their supporters while claiming to be doing something about the "structural deficit" they created with their indiscriminate spending. It's clear now they've lied to us before and they're lying to us now. Please, please don't fall for it this time.