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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Slots & Taxes: What our legislators are saying

(Posted 18 Oct 2007)
Slots Plan Is Brought To Delegates
Post, 18 Oct 2007 (Helderman, Hernandez & Wiggins).
"To the governor's credit, he's been trying to keep us informed," said Del. Aisha N. Braveboy (D-Prince George's), who recently attended a breakfast hosted by the governor for freshman delegates to discuss the budget shortfall and his plans for a special session this month.
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The Prince George's House delegation has been staunchly opposed to any plan that might bring slot machines to the county.
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Braveboy, who was not in office in 2005, when the last slots bill was defeated, said she is against "slots as a tool for economic development" and against them in Prince George's, but she remained uncommitted on whether she would support a bill that includes slots.

"There are a number of questions that need to be answered to support a bill at this juncture," she said.
Meanwhile, Del. Barbara A. Frush (D-Prince George's), who acknowledged that she has always voted against legalizing slot machines in Maryland, said she might be open to the idea this time if "the right bill" came before her. She said the components of a "right bill" would keep the bulk of slots proceeds in the state and require each sector of the state to have a slots location. "The entire state will benefit, the entire state should take a hit from having them," she said.
State lawmakers called back to Annapolis; O’Malley says he will keep General Assembly in special session until a deal is reached
Gazette, 18 Oct 2007 (Brody & Tallman).
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Economic Matters Committee Chairman Dereck E. Davis said most of the session’s work will be done with the General Assembly’s budget committees.

‘‘Our role is going to be more or less sidelined until a bill comes to the floor,” said Davis (D-Dist. 25) of Upper Marlboro. But lawmakers, possibly concerned about a tax measure or a proposed cut in services, will want to be ‘‘front and center” of any debate.
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O'Malley to Offer Revenue Proposal In Special Session; Md. Tax Increases, Slot Gambling On Table in Risky Hurry-Up Play
Post, 13 Oct 2007 (Wagner).
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Sen. Ulysses Currie, chairman of the Budget and Taxation Committee, said O'Malley is taking a real gamble. "I think without consensus it's very risky, and we don't have full buy-in yet," Currie (D-Prince George's) said. "On the other hand, the governor feels strongly that if we don't do something in a special session, it's going to cost the taxpayers more."
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Lawmakers back special session, tax hikes, wary of slots.
Laurel Leader, 18 Oct 2007 (Pichaske).
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"We have such a financial crisis in the state and we need to get ahold of it," said state Del. Barbara Frush, a Beltsville Democrat whose 21st district includes Laurel. "If we wait until next year, the shortfall will be another half-billion dollars."
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Frush, for example, said she opposed any increase in the gasoline tax as unfair to lower-income Marylanders. So did fellow District 21 Democrat, Del. Joseline Peña-Melnyk of College Park -- who also admitted to "mixed feelings" about the special session, saying it could end up being "a waste of time."

Sen. Douglas Peters, the District 23 Democrat who represents part of South Laurel, said he does not favor expanding the sales tax. "We should be exploring an Internet sales tax," he argued.

Sen. James Rosapepe, a District 21 Democrat from College Park, said he would prefer closing more tax loopholes rather than increasing the sales tax.

All of the area lawmakers, however, praised O'Malley's package as balanced and substantive.

"It's a fair package, and it's already full of compromises," said Del. Ben Barnes, a College Park Democrat. "I think it's a great start."
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"I don't think we should balance the state budget on slots," said Peña-Melnyk, a vocal slots critic. While she opposed legalizing slots, she said she might support a voter referendum on the issue, which O'Malley has suggested.
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"If I were putting this package together, I wouldn't puts slots in there," said Rosapepe. "But I understand the governor's position."

Rosapepe said he could support a slots proposal with certain provisions: having the state, not a gambling company, run the system; including funds to help people with gambling addictions; and including money to aid those areas most affected by slots -- including Laurel, since the Laurel Park racetrack is sure to have slot machines.

Frush said that while opposed to slots, she might support a proposal that scattered the machines across the state and that guaranteed the money raised would stay in the country.
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"I don't favor slots, but I don't want to be tilting at windmills," said Barnes. "We need to keep all options on the table because the situation is so dire."
Proposal would create hospital authority.
Sentinel, 4 Oct 2007 (Samuel).
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However Del. Doyle Niemann (D-Dist. 47), is back with what he believes will be the final fix to the hospital system, the Prince George's Hospital Authority Act.
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Niemann's current proposal again includes a 3-cent property tax.
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