Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Rohrer: Doubling Down on Bad Bet

State Rep. Sam Rohrer (R-Berks), who voted Wednesday against a measure approved by the House to legalize table games such as poker and blackjack at Pennsylvania casinos, issued the following statement explaining his opposition to the Democratic-led expansion of gambling:
"Five years ago, Governor Rendell sold the people of Pennsylvania a bill of goods when he signed the slots legislation into law," Rohrer said. "At the time, Rendell and the gambling lobby falsely promised the bill would create thousands of jobs, spur an economic boom and provide property tax relief. Today, Pennsylvania's unemployment rate is higher, its economy is faltering and homeowners are still burdened with excessive property taxes. With this record of failure, the legalization of table games amounts to doubling down on a bad bet."

Gov. Ed Rendell threatened to lay off nearly 1,000 state workers if the table games bill was not approved by the General Assembly by the end of the week. Rendell falsely claimed the bill was necessary to fill a supposed $250 million hole in the state budget.

"If you could fill a $250 million hole by laying off 1,000 state workers, that would mean that each of them would have to be earning approximately $250,000," Rohrer noted. "Does the governor really have that many excessively paid staff working under him? I would note that of the 1,000 state workers the governor threatened to lay off, he only threatened one in the governor's office. By comparison, he threatened to lay off 112 people who work with the Pennsylvania State Police, 38 who serve our military veterans and 19 who work in the Department of Health."

Rohrer further argued that the $250 million in revenue the legalization of table games is expected to generate are just an estimate.

"We still have some casinos that aren't up and running five years after that bill was signed into law," Rohrer said. "Somehow, the governor blindly thinks these table games are going to be set up and raking in the money in the next five months before the fiscal year ends in June. That naive belief represents a detachment from reality."

Rohrer pointed out the faulty logic used by gambling proponents, who suggest the legalization of table games would generate new jobs.

"If a Pennsylvanian spends $20 at a blackjack table, he or she can't spend that money at the local diner," Rohrer said. "Sure, it might create a job in one area of the economy, but it will do so at the expense of a worker in another area. The blackjack dealer benefits at the expense of the waitress. Taking water from one end of a bathtub and dropping it in the other won't raise the overall water level. This law will merely benefit the well-connected gambling industry at the expense of other Pennsylvania workers."

Rohrer also chastised those who propagated the false belief that legalizing table game would somehow help homeowners struggling to pay their property taxes.

"Like slot machines before them, table games offer homeowners nothing but the false hope that their property tax burden will be reduced," Rohrer said. "The truth is, the governor is betting on table games to bring in more revenues to subsidize his spending habit. Make no mistake, legalized gambling has done little for homeowners, but it has been and will continue to be a boon for free-spending politicians in Harrisburg. Pennsylvanians are tired of these 'bait-and-switch' schemes where politicians promise them property tax relief but deliver something far different. The only way to truly deal with the property tax issue is by eliminating them. No tax should have the power to leave you homeless."

The bill now heads to the governor's desk for his signature.

"Whether you oppose legalized gambling based on economic or moral principles or because it fails to deliver on its overblown promises, today represents a step backward for Pennsylvania," Rohrer said. "The Commonwealth will take a further leap backward if and when the governor places his signature on this sham of a bill. Pennsylvanians deserve better than this."

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