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Brochin: The Case Against Question 7

A letter to the editor from Senator James Brochin of the 42nd legislative district.

There’s a famous scene in Robert Penn Warren’s political novel, "All the Kings Men," where Willie Stark delivers a fiery speech telling the people that they have been lied to, and that the political establishment was counting on them being a bunch of uninformed hicks.  In my mind, Question 7, the gambling initiative on the November ballot, is a clear attempt by the political establishment to pull a fast one on the citizens of Maryland.

Let’s look at the facts:

In May, despite my and many of my colleagues' best efforts, the Democratic leadership decided that those with an annual income of $100,000 were now considered "wealthy" in Maryland.  The legislature decided that these new "wealthy people" who make $100,000 or more would now see an increase in their state income tax from 4.75% to 5.0%.  Three months later, in a special session, both Republicans and Democrats were back in Annapolis asking the voters of Maryland to lower the tax rate on Maryland's casino operators from 67% to less than 50%.  That’s right, Maryland has the most aggressive tax on casinos in the Union, and now the powers that be wanted to lower that rate from 67% to 50%.  All of this in exchange for a sixth casino in Prince George's County.

To add insult to injury, while Maryland state government continues to extract personal property taxes from hard working men and women who own businesses, this legislation will exempt every casino operator from paying personal property taxes on any machines or other equipment in those facilities for life.  Maryland business owners who struggle daily to provide jobs and benefits for their employees and keep investing in their businesses for growth and stability will continue to be taxed yearly on every computer, desk, chair, fax machine and for any and all business related personal property, but amazingly the multi-millionaire owners of the six casinos will receive a lifetime exemption on their personal property taxes.

How does the establishment think they can get away with this?  They’re counting on the millions of dollars of ads by MGM Grand and the allure of a few thousand temporary construction jobs to carry the day.  They’re also counting on you, to be an uninformed hick, or to be so disgusted by the maneuvering of both sides that you just vote “Yes” to put the issue behind you.

But there is another option.  Vote “No” on Question 7 and send us back to Annapolis and have us do what we should have done in the first place— legalize table games at the five initial casinos and tell the casino mega-millionaires to pay the 67% tax that they are supposed to pay.

M. Sullivan October 19, 2012 at 05:40 PM
The problem with question 7 is that there are too many parts to it. 1) Table games are definitely needed to compete with neighboring states. 2) With the highest tax rate in the U.S., Maryland casino owners have little incentive to set the machine payouts any higher than the absolute minimum or to offer decent comps. This rate needs to be lowered. 3) On the flip side, there is no reason to add another license. This is unfair to the existing casino operators, who based their sales forecasts and decision to build on there being a specific number of competitors. 4) The State should not be dictating the locations for casinos, the people who know the business should decide. This is how we ended up with a casino in Perryville, only 20 miles from Delaware Park, a much bigger and better facility. That said, maybe the PG county casino takes the place of one in Balto. City or Alleghany Co. MD government has continued with its "nanny state" mentality with trying to micromanage all aspects of the casino business. This can never end well.
JDStuts October 19, 2012 at 06:12 PM
The solution here is fairly simple. Have the casinos agree to not to take any tax breaks and set up a system where in addition to regular state and local taxes they contribute 3% of their operating revenue to the state. This thing would pass with flying colors.
Gunpowder Chronicle October 22, 2012 at 04:06 PM
In the words of Will Starks -- Nail 'Em Up! Nail 'Em Up! Nail 'Em Up High!
KayBee October 26, 2012 at 09:24 PM
I agree with you Blue Alpha! On top of all of that what about JOBS????/ It will put 100's of people to work.. Look at the designers, the builders, ie construction workers, electricitans etc.. Then you have the workers in the building once it''s done.. A full staff will be needed to run the facility like, building engineers, chefs for the restaurants, maintenance people, just hundreds of jobs.. Everyone's always complaining of no jobs, and here they are laying in their faces and everyone talking about what the rich are making, what about the unemployed that need help???? Gee give me a break!!! People need to work!!!
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