By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

End game on casinos

A group of Deval Patrick supporters, on the day of a House hearing on the matter, is circulating an open letter denouncing the governor’s proposal to build three casinos in Massachusetts. Only a few names are attached at the moment, but as you can see from the comments at Blue Mass. Group, there’s a lot of interest starting to build. Here’s a highlight from the letter:

Resort casinos are a mechanism for transferring money from poor and middle class people to wealthy corporations. Any revenue that leaks out to the state via taxation along the way is far short of the amount necessary to ameliorate the social and economic damage that the industry causes.

Resort casino gambling would involve our state government in condoning and encouraging behavior that has led in far too many cases to personal financial ruin, the breakup of families, domestic violence, and child neglect. In addition to these social costs, resort casinos draw money away from local restaurants, stores, and farms, compounding the injury. So presenting resort casino gambling as a source of revenue that would benefit our communities is misleading. The academically documented experiences of other states suggest that resort casinos damage, rather than boost, local economies.

Gee, sounds exactly like House Speaker Sal DiMasi, who denounced casinos in his strongest language yet this morning in a speech before the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce. Unlike DiMasi, the Patrick supporters can’t be characterized as basing their opposition on personal animus toward the governor.

Also at Blue Mass. Group, Ryan Adams posts new polling data showing that two-thirds of respondents are opposed to seeing a casino built in their community. No surprise. As readers of this blog know, residents at the Middleborough town meeting last summer voted overwhelmingly against an advisory question asking whether they wanted to see a casino built. Unfortunately, most of the attention was given to town meeting’s approval of a deal the town had reached with the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe in case a casino is built despite that opposition.

Finally, Matt Viser reports in today’s Globe what casino opponents have been saying all along — that there is nothing inevitable about the Mashpee Wampanoags building a casino in Middleborough or anywhere else.

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  1. Anonymous

    The oft-repeated rap on Mass. casino opponents is that DiMasi, et al. aren’t offering any alternatives for revenue growth. I think DiMasi’s remarks today address that point rather well.What I find disappointing is the fact that I thought those were the kinds of priorities I was supporting when I voted for Deval Patrick.

  2. Ron Newman

    Is anyone else here getting snail-mail spammed by an astroturf group called Mass. Coalition for Jobs ans Growth ?

  3. Anonymous

    A couple things jumped out at me from Matt Viser’s casino story in today’s Globe (Patrick fights odds on casinos):1. “Teacher and labor unions said they supported it for the 20,000 permanent jobs Patrick has promised casinos would bring.”Shouldn’t Viser mention that the controversy surrounding Patrick’s various job estimates, and where those numbers come from? (Uh, that’d be consultants who work for the gambling industry.) The 20,000 new jobs promise comes up again, and again in Viser’s piece, here: “Appearing on the Common in the morning, [Gov. Patrick] addressed a crowd of about 200 union workers who were wearing sweat shirts and yellow, blue, and brown hard hats, and carrying signs saying, “Casinos equal 20,000 jobs for Massachusetts, and I need one of them.”and here: “I want to know which legislator is going to deny you a job, who’s going to pay your mortgage when you can’t pay, who’s going to leave 20,000 workers in an unemployment line,” [Mass. AFL-CIO president] Haynes said.”But Viser doesn’t mention the dispute about Patrick’s numbers, or the concern expressed by many that new casino jobs will result in significant job losses elsewhere.2. [quoting the gov.] “If you have a better idea about where to dedicate the revenues, what is it?” he said. “Let’s work together on whatever your ideas are. I believe that the people of Massachusetts expect more from us than they are getting.”Viser could easily have synopsized the long list of alternative proposals DiMasi mentioned in his speech on Monday. Why didn’t he? Here are some excerpted points from DiMasi’s speech, none of which Viser mentions today:True economic development requires the best thinking and the best planning to create a strategic vision that will help create a better society. Since I have been Speaker, the House of Representatives has focused on economic development plans that are real and that are sustainable. The House recently passed legislation that will invest $1 billion in the life sciences industry, a bill that will allow Massachusetts to retain its spot as the top super-cluster in the industry. It will create hundreds of thousands of jobs. It is a generational investment in what Massachusetts knows and does best, investing in the innovation economy, in good, high-paying jobs and in a truly sustainable industry. The House has made successive investments in economic stimulus bills. We brought Bristol-Myers Squibb and hundreds of high-paying jobs to Fort Devens. We helped Target build a huge distribution center in Westfield, with 1,000 jobs in Western Massachusetts. And hundreds of thousands of people are taking advantage of our One-Stop Career Centers and our School-to-Career programs. And, recently, I rolled out a detailed plan to balance the budget by closing the $1.3 billion budget gap. This plan is realistic, reasonable, and fiscally responsible. It contains three major components — tough budget cuts, conservative allocation of the state’s rainy day fund and new revenues generated by corporate tax changes and an increase in the cigarette tax. I embraced two of the Governor’s changes to the corporate tax structure, adding combined reporting and check-the-box. I also offered a much more significant cut in the corporate income tax rate to help a significant number of Massachusetts businesses. Under our plan, the corporate tax rate will be cut over three years – from the current rate of 9.5 percent to 8.5 percent in 2009, to 7.5 percent in 2010 and 7 percent in 2011. As you know, we already froze the unemployment insurance rate for 2008, saving businesses $150 million. For the state budget, the increase is $204 million. The bottom line impact to businesses is just $54 million. . . . . . . We will fund our commitment to Chapter 70 school aid this year with an increase of $223 million, 6 percent, over last year. And we will provide additional funds to hold cities and towns harmless from the deficit in the Lottery. . . .. . . Last year, the Legislature passed a bill to allow municipalities to enroll their workers in the state health care system, the Group Insurance Commission. Instead of premium increases as high as 20 to 30 percent, the GIC has seen single-digit percent increases on average the last five years. Cities and towns can benefit from this by joining the GIC and they should. In addition, we passed pension reform which, combined with the health care reform, could have saved cities and towns hundreds of millions of dollars. Unfortunately, we have not seen cities and towns take advantage of these reforms. I believe that municipal leaders want to join GIC because they also believe that they can provide savings and good health care for municipal workers. I also believe that municipal leaders should have the sole decision in determining whether their communities join GIC and deliver on the promise of property tax relief on the local level. Therefore, I believe it may be time to change the law to allow municipal leaders alone to make this decision. We must have cost savings first at cities and towns, the same way we do at the state level. As a Commonwealth we want to help cities and towns help themselves in providing better services more efficiently, Last year, for example, we provided grant funds to communities in Western Massachusetts exploring ways to consolidate or more efficiently deliver educational services. Many communities are experiencing significant enrollment declines and need to rethink the traditional districts they operate. Unfortunately, local officials who often volunteer their time are not able to provide leadership on this issue. We must marshal existing state resources to assist our partners at the local level and expand them where necessary. And so today I am announcing that the House will eagerly embrace a proposal in Governor Patrick’s budget that will fund better fiscal and municipal planning training for city and town leaders. This important initiative, The Edward J. Collins, Jr. Center for Public Management at the McCormack Institute at UMass-Boston will help our communities and our state develop best practices, aid them in finding critical efficiencies and doing all they can to keep the taxpayers costs down. It will offer cities and towns as well as state agencies training and education, consulting, and the use of a vast public policy clearing house and database. I am also considering the creation of a new Municipal Audit Bureau to analyze and report on local management practices and spending patterns. The purpose would be to identify the kinds of efficiencies the voters expect and provide an independent source of analysis and information for state and local policy-makers. We are investing much in our cities and towns, as we should. But when they call for more, as they do every year in good and in bad, we have a right to know why –- and for what. We are answerable to the taxpayers and, particularly at a time when many cities and towns are considering Proposition 2½ overrides, our citizens need a much better understanding of the financial condition of their communities. At the same time, we in the House are moving on several other fronts to grow the economy to better ensure the revenues of tomorrow. The House’s top priority has been economic growth through clean, renewable energy. Last year before this group, I unveiled my Green Communities Act of 2007, a bold energy reform bill designed to curtail dirty emissions, reduce our reliance on foreign oil, and firmly establish our state’s commitment to clean and renewable energy. That bill overwhelmingly passed the House and the Senate and we will have a bill to the Governor soon. But, as I mentioned last year, our focus on the energy sector will be ongoing. True reform will take time. Since 2002, the price for a barrel of oil has climbed steadily from around $30 a barrel to more than $100 per barrel. That, combined with the weak dollar, makes it even more imperative to take some control over our energy future since these costs ripple through every aspect of our economy. Today, I am unveiling a new energy reform initiative, one I’m calling the Green Jobs Act. It is yet another bold plan that will grow the right kind of jobs in Massachusetts — clean energy jobs, green jobs and good-paying jobs in the economy of the future. There is a tremendous opportunity here on clean energy, just as there is in life sciences. The New England Clean Energy Council reports that clean energy has now become the 10th largest industry sector in Massachusetts, with 14,500 jobs and growing at more than 20 percent a year. To keep up that growth, Massachusetts will have to fight for the jobs. Other states are competing for these jobs and rolling out the red carpet for clean energy firms and green jobs. Iowa, Minnesota, California –- all investing tens or hundreds of millions of dollars in grants for research and development, green jobs programs, and workforce training. Here in Massachusetts, we have a natural clean energy cluster – the University of Massachusetts, MIT, and Harvard are leaders in the movement and are educating the leaders and innovators of the future. All around Cambridge, Boston, and up and down Route 128, we have venture capitalists developing and supporting these businesses. And throughout the state, we have workers ready to capitalize – to manufacture green products, to test green facilities, to continue green research. We will create the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center and set aside $50 million. We will create a Clean Energy Seed Grant Program that will award grants of between $2 million and $5 million per year. This program will create new clean energy companies, attract local venture capital, and deliver huge benefits to the Commonwealth in new jobs and revenue. We will also create a Clean Energy Fellowship program to give Massachusetts entrepreneurs the training they need to drive the sector. We will create a Green Jobs Initiative to coordinate workforce development efforts on clean energy, investing up to $2 million per year in our universities and colleges to create the workforce needed to support this cluster. We will redirect the funds currently spent by the Massachusetts Renewable Energy Trust Fund on economic development to support the programs of the Clean Energy Center. This will ensure a steady stream of revenue to support the Center’s programs and will coordinate all clean energy economic development in one place.

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