Tuesday, April 10, 2012

BLECH: Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake Wants Special Session to Push Gambling & Prince George's Casino

BACKGROUND: Maryland Juice read two statements from politicians today that confirm gambling is a central issue in Maryland's budget debate. Personally, the issue doesn't motivate me very much in either direction, but I am very disturbed to see so much legislative effort go into promoting an obviously regressive revenue source. Did folks really hold up the budget to bring more gambling into Maryland? If so, am I the only one that finds this to be shameful?

Earlier today we reported that Maryland will be facing a doomsday budget scenario with millions of dollars in education cuts -- that is, unless Governor Martin O'Malley intervenes and calls for a special session. Now, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake is calling for a special session and is supporting the gambling measures. Below we print an excerpt from Baltimore Business Journal coverage of the Mayor's remarks, followed by a statement from Delegate Melony Griffith. Ms. Griffith is the Chair of the Prince George's Delegation and highlights a few of the sticking points from yesterday's chaotic legislative proceedings. She also confirms that gambling has been a sticking point in negotiations. Hat tip: Real Prince George's blog.
Rawlings-Blake wants special session for table games; O'Malley undecided
BALTIMORE BUSINESS JOURNAL: Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake wants lawmakers to return for a special session to pass a bill adding games like poker and blackjack at Maryland’s casinos, and deal with other key pieces of legislation, a spokeswoman for the mayor said Tuesday.

A hotly contested casino-expansion bill was left in limbo after the House and Senate couldn’t agree on a plan to add a sixth casino in the state before the session ended Monday. The Senate passed legislation that would add a sixth casino in Prince George’s County, either at the National Harbor resort or at Penn National Gaming’s Rosecroft Raceway harness track, and add table games at all the state’s casinos.

The House favored adding a sixth casino at National Harbor that would be slots-only while adding table games at the other five casinos in the state, including one planned for Baltimore....

“We don’t even know if there is going to be a special session at this point,” said Raquel Guillory, a spokesman for Gov. Martin O’Malley....

Since lawmakers couldn’t agree on a budget before the session ended, a “doomsday budget” will go into effect starting July 1. It will eliminate 500 state jobs and cut spending by $512.2 million....

Caesars Entertainment CEO Gary Loveman said April 3 the ability to offer table games would mean 500 additional jobs at the proposed 3,750-machine slots parlor on Russell Street, south of M&T Bank Stadium....

Brennan, the mayoral spokesman, said that in addition to a casino-expansion bill, Rawlings-Blake wants a special session to also take up legislation passing a new state budget and hiking the state’s gas tax to raise money for needed road improvements.

Delegate Melony Griffith's statement about the budget debacle appears in full on The Real Prince George's blog. We print an excerpt below:
DELEGATE MELONY GRIFFITH: Members are awaiting word whether the legislature will re-convene in a special session or face a “Doomsday Budget” following last night’s uncertain end to the 90-day 2012 Maryland General Assembly Session, Delegation Chair Delegate Melony G. Griffith said.

“We are disappointed that our work requires the possibility of more time to resolve these key pieces of legislation,” Griffith said. “I know we all would have preferred to resolve this by the deadline.”

Amid debates over whether to allow casino gaming in Prince George’s County and negotiations over how to fund the state’s budget going down to midnight, the delegation was divided this session. Members met in March to be briefed on one of several late gaming proposals, Senate Bill 892, but no formal position was taken.

With the gaming bill stalled, the two chambers passed the state’s budget by midnight. But several key pieces of the budget concerning taxes and other revenues for the state failed to pass, including a proposal that set the amount of teacher pension costs to be shared with counties, along with revenue to local jurisdictions to smooth the transition.

It is now up to Gov. Martin O’Malley to decide whether to call a special session before the July 1 start of the fiscal year, or to allow a previous alternative “doomsday budget” with $500 million in cuts to education, colleges, grants and other state funding to take effect.

More on the Maryland budget crisis soon!

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