Franchot Chides O'Malley On Slots
Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot (D) blasted Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) this morning for making his proposals to expand health care access and hold down college tuition contingent on passage of a referendum legalizing slot-machine gambling.
"It seems as though everything under the sun is being linked to slots," Franchot told reporters. "It just seems we're more interested in lining the pockets of the national gambling industry than fixing the structural deficit."
Franchot's comments came at the outset of day three of a special session called by O'Malley to close a $1.7 billion budget shortfall. O'Malley has proposed a slots plan that would eventually yield $700 million a year for the state.
The governor's aides yesterday detailed plans to legislators to make several proposals contingent on passage of a slots referendum in 2008.
If the ballot measure fails, O'Malley would shelve his plan to roll back the state property tax rate from 11.2 cents to 8.2 cents per $100 in assessed value. About $300 million a year in dedicated school construction funding would not materialize. Nor would $60 million a year in dedicated funding to universities that could be used to hold down tuition costs.
O'Malley's proposal to expand access to health care would help fewer people, becoming a $100 million-a-year initiative rather than a $250 million-a-year initiative once fully phased in.
O'Malley said yesterday that he wants to avoid "the same trap" of past legislative sessions: increasing spending and cutting taxes without sufficient revenue to pay for it.
Franchot, a former delegate, also renewed questions today about the widsom of holding a special session, calling it a "bad idea" and suggesting lawmakers defer action on most issues until their regular session that starts in January.
"We're having a mini-regular session now in a highly charged atmosphere," he said.
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