Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Flush With Cash

An interesting question came up at one of the Board of Education Forums in October. From my notes:

Question: Tax money for schools. What happened to the casino money? Why is there a budget shortfall?

It turns out that Christina Delmont-Small was closest to the correct answer when she said that the State switched the casino money with prior moneys, replacing the funding.

Take a look at this article by Luke Broadwater who chased down the finer points of what exactly is happening to that money. From the article:

Curt Anderson, Baltimore Democrat:

"I voted against the casinos because I feared all the promises they made would not be kept," he said. "The money is going into the Education Trust Fund, but it's  being siphoned off on the other end."

Former Delegate Heather Mizeur, Democrat:

"Governor Hogan's budget does exactly what I had feared most when I was working against the casino ballot initiative — it does a bait-and-switch on the public, breaking a promise that was made by the initiative's supporters," Mizeur said. "The new money that's in the Maryland Education Trust Fund isn't being used as supplemental revenue to boost education spending. Rather, it's supplanting holes in the general budget."

As far as I am concerned, this isn't a particularly partisan issue. Both Republicans and Democrats had a hand in selling the "millions for education" concept to the public, and in failing to guarantee that the money would truly go to education. I don't care who is responsible. I'm disgusted.

Lawmakers who haven't ensured that our students come first are rather like those parents who help themselves to their children's Halloween candy. C'mon-- nobody's looking. Who's going to stop them? I don't mean to suggest that anyone is lining their own pockets with this money. But if we are not keeping our promises to connect the revenue stream of legalized gambling with the needs of our schools, then someone is not doing their job. Someone plural, I am guessing.

A local writer who has been watching this situation evolve is Marge Neal. Here's a recent blog post on the topic. From Ms. Neal's perspective, we really should have known better. After all, she wrote about this in 2008 to remind people what went wrong when this was tried before. 

"Let's not buy into gambling for education again," she wrote. 

What follows is a tale of scratch-offs, promises of education funding, and a quick detour to the Maryland Stadium Authority. You can easily see why Ms. Neal took a dim view of  going down that road again. And she was right to be skeptical.

Perhaps if school children were ten feet tall, or had incredibly sharp teeth, it might help legislators and the governor remember whose money that really is. And then our schools throughout the state would not be in the position of struggling to provide the resources the law requires.

Someone may be a winner when it comes to casino gambling. It isn't our kids.

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