Sunday, November 2, 2008

Slots, again...

I'm about 55-45 on the no side. But still open-minded.

Here is a miniature discussion with both sides commenting, over on the Inside Ed blog.

I've spent a lot of the last week talking to friends and colleagues about the issue. Here is a summary of what I have found:

Arguments in favor of slots:

1. The funds will go to education, which really needs it.

2. Even if the funds are diverted from education and used to patch other holes, the state is in a huge deficit and needs the money.

3. Concerned with taxing a "sin" - why aren't you concerned with alcohol or cigarettes being taxed? The state already makes a whole lot of money on "morality" taxes.

4. The people who would be gambling are already going to other states to do it, so all that tax money is filling other states' coffers.

5. We acknowledge that it's not ideal, but it's the only thing on the table in terms of bringing any new revenue into the state without raising more taxes on everyone. Without them, there will be draconian cuts to education and other state entities.

6. Sheila Dixon, who somehow has managed to put me strongly in her corner after her decent-so-far tenure as mayor, says that property taxes will dramatically decrease from the revenue of slots.

7. My environmentalist friend tells me that he figures if slots pass, that the horse tracks will be more successful, meaning they'll stay open instead of being bulldozed in favor of development.

Arguments Against Slots:

1. According to Adam Meisner, the language of the proposed law does not guarantee new money for schools, which likely would not get an increase in funding at all. He also discusses a scenario where slots operators realize that with the current tax structure, that they cannot even build or operate the slots without a tax break from the state, and that the said tax break will come out of the pockets of the schools.

2. Public perception - Few go beyond "we passed slots for education," but what if the education budget remains static, or even decreases, despite the passage? I mean, we are headed for dark economic times and this is perhaps even likely. Then, next time teachers or education advocates look to Annapolis for more money, they'll say, "Well, we already gave you slots. What more do you want?"

3. It's taxing the poorest and most vulnerable in society. The poor get poorer...

4. Gambling and all the addiction and pain that can come with it can be detrimental to society, and this is a government-funded addiction possibility.

5. They're advertising as pro-teacher. Is there any evidence that this is a pro-teacher plan? The teachers I speak with are about evenly split. I also was really put off by a misleading flier that attempted to connect Obama to the anti-slots movement.

6. Detroit did the same thing years ago with slots. Funding for education has decreased (because, although money does fill up the education fund, the education fund has been cut) and crime/addiction have increased. I've heard from Baltimore Diary that the same thing happened in New York.

7. That slots simply bail out bad legislators who should have left plenty for the education budget without relying on this source of revenue to work within a budget.

I'm still capable of being able to be convinced either way. Most of my teacher colleagues are similarly up in the air, while others are vehemently in support (one did canvassing for slots (he posted this on my facebook: "From where I sit, including not having enough books again and having new students added WEEKS into the year PURELY for money reasons, I have to ask 'where is the money going to come from?' Think about how forthcoming people and politicians outside of Baltimore have not been sending money our way, even with a court order. I understand that the numbers thrown out there in support may not be entirely accurate, especially with the economy headed down the shiesshaus, but it will bring in something, some of which has been leaving the state already. Now ask yourself: If the slots issue is not passed, where will ANY of the money needed to pick up the short fall come from? As Ms. ________ said to me, 'We shouldn't HAVE to do this!' But I see no other option at this point in time, nor anyone even proposing an alternative other than letting the kids' education, particularly that of the ones in Baltimore, rot") or vehemently against (a colleague told me that addiction is already the biggest problem in Baltimore and this is just something that makes it much worse, and doesn't trust that schools will see any of the money).

Still don't know what to do. I'll be thinking long and hard for the next 36 hours on this. (I can't believe I'm an undecided voter on this issue.)

1 comment:

jackie said...

I don't know what to do yet either-- I am leaning towards the anti-slots side, but I have two kids in a city school and I believe strongly in funding public education. I will probably end up voting no, but am resigned that I may not be on the winning side. It's the social costs that are most persuasive to me, especially in a city like Baltimore, which is so vulnerable already.