As Maryland’s chief fiscal officer and the only elected official who sees our economic data on a daily basis, I am extremely concerned about the financial decisions our state has made over the past few years… and this incredibly short sighted and hasty plan to expand gambling is a great example.
One thing is clear, this new expansion of gambling is not about our schools and it’s not about sound, long term economic development. It has everything to do with making out-of-state casino owners richer and giving this handful of billionaires the keys to our political system.
I care deeply about the people and future of Maryland. Despite all the wild promises and slick ads, this proposal will not do anything to benefit our schools or our communities. That’s why I urge voters to vote NO on Question 7.
First, I do not believe demand exists for a sixth casino in Maryland. Rather, I believe we are over-saturated when it comes to gambling and our current casinos have suffered in this economic downturn.
Second, passage of Question 7 would not bring promised benefits to our state.
Independent groups have taken a look at the claim gambling expansion will increase funding for education and have reached the same conclusion I have: it will NOT mean more money for the classroom.
The truth is this: there is no requirement, either in Question 7 or in our state’s laws, that any additional gambling revenue that goes into our state’s Educational Trust Fund must be spent in Maryland’s classrooms. Any dollars coming from the casino into education in Maryland only replaces existing school dollars, netting no change for education funding.
Four years ago, we were told that legalizing slot machines in Maryland would generate $600 million a year for our public schools and other great things, fix our structural budget deficit and revive Maryland’s horse racing industry and make it self-sufficient. None of those things have happened.
We have also seen a lot of promising when it comes to job creation. Here’s the problem: a few thousand temporary construction jobs won’t fix Maryland’s unemployment numbers. And the number of casino jobs it creates will likely be the same number of casino jobs it eliminates from our current casinos, which will see their attendance and revenues diminish.
Finally, contrary to Maryland’s long tradition of progressive and open government, this deal was negotiated behind closed doors and that, too, is the wrong way to conduct business in Maryland. It was dismaying to me to see MGM—an enormous, multi-million dollar, out-of-state gambling company—was given a “sweetheart” deal with tax breaks at the very same time Marylanders—who are NOT wealthy casino moguls—are being asked to shoulder higher taxes.
I believe the fact that this ballot question is in so much trouble today indicates that Marylanders are seeing through the lies and are understandably disgusted at the corrosive and secretive way this deal went down in Annapolis back in August.
There are things we can do to truly make a positive impact on the Maryland economy and, more importantly, to the household budgets of all Marylanders. I believe we should put a moratorium on tax increases until our economy recovers. I believe we should operate our state openly and with transparency because that is what Marylanders deserve. I believe we should create an open, fair environment for our businesses and do all we can to encourage job creation. And I believe we should teach Maryland students the lessons of financial literacy. These, I believe, will help Marylanders. Question 7 will not.
Comptroller of Maryland
Editor's Note: Joseph Shapiro is Franchot's spokesman. He posted this opinion for Franchot.