Slots Report Irks Franchot
Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot clashed openly yesterday with Gov. Martin O'Malley, a fellow Democrat, criticizing a report on slot machines by a senior O'Malley administration official as propaganda for the nation's gambling industry.
Franchot, speaking at a news conference in Salisbury, said he was "very disappointed" by a report released Tuesday by Thomas E. Perez, O'Malley's secretary of the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation. The report said that Marylanders are contributing $150 million a year to the treasuries of West Virginia and Delaware by playing slots in those states.
"The secretary had an opportunity to take an objective, independent look at an issue that has paralyzed our state for far too many years," Franchot, an opponent of legalizing slot machines, said in prepared remarks distributed by his staff after the event. "Rather than bringing a fresh perspective to this debate, the secretary simply reheated the talking points of the national gambling industry."
The issue of legalizing slot-machine gambling has been rekindled in Maryland by a looming state budget deficit projected to reach nearly $1.5 billion next year. Some lawmakers are pushing slots as part of the solution.
O'Malley, who has said he supports legalizing "a limited number" of slot machines, said later in the day that he thought Perez had done "a good job" by producing a balanced report.
"I don't think anybody believes Tom Perez works for the gambling industry," O'Malley said. A spokeswoman said Perez was on vacation and unavailable for comment.
In his remarks, Franchot said that he respected Perez "a great deal" and noted work they had done on other issues together. Both are Montgomery County Democrats.
The exchange was the latest in a string of episodes in which Franchot has sparred with O'Malley and his administration. As a member of the Board of Public Works, Franchot has aggressively questioned the rationale for a number of proposed state land purchases.
In his remarks yesterday, Franchot also questioned O'Malley's approach to the budget deficit: "Where's the blue ribbon commission on overhauling our tax system, modernizing it and making it fairer to all?"
Told of his comments, O'Malley shot back: "I've heard the comptroller say many times that there are hundreds of millions of taxes that go uncollected in Maryland. I look forward to seeing any of his recommendations about that."
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