Legislature facing shrinking budget

Published 11:13 am Tuesday, January 12, 2010

State legislators headed back to Goat Hill (as some call our state capital of Montgomery) earlier this week with what promises to be one of the most challenging legislative sessions in modern history.

The challenge facing legislators is no different than the one so many of us are facing at home: how to spend an ever-shrinking budget to cover all your wants and needs. In the case of the state budget, legislators have some $500 million less in projected revenues this year compared to last; couple that with a constitutional mandate that requires a balanced state budget, and you quickly see just how enormous the challenge is.

So what’s the answer? If you where thumbing through the pages of the newspaper today in hopes of finding that answer, I’m sorry to disappoint you. But what I can offer is my suggestion for what is not the answer to the state’s budget woes: legalized gaming.

There will be much talk in the coming weeks about how legalizing gambling in the state will ‘fix’ all our problems. Don’t believe those arguments.

Just ask state treasurers where gaming is legal, from lotteries to slot machines, if their state coffers are overflowing; their answer will be a resounding “no.”

Unfortunately, there will be some legislators who see dollar signs and a means to fix all or part of our state’s budget woes through taxing gaming in the state.

But the notion that compromising our ethics or the laws of the state simply because the need for increased tax revenue is great is wrongheaded and foolish.

One of gaming’s oldest axioms still holds true today: the house always wins.

Gaming will not fix our state’s current budget shortfalls and any progress such an effort would make toward that end will be on the backs of those least able to afford the cost.