Pioneer Editorial: Don't use gambling to fill budget
Lawmakers, who started their 2010 session Thursday, must think outside the box to fill a $1.2 billion state budget deficit and an even larger one predicted for the next biennium. Part of the problem rests with a governor who has pledged to veto a...
Lawmakers, who started their 2010 session Thursday, must think outside the box to fill a $1.2 billion state budget deficit and an even larger one predicted for the next biennium. Part of the problem rests with a governor who has pledged to veto any tax increases.
That leaves few options, with cutting an already straining budget even further.
One idea floating around on Day 1 is to raise revenues by some other way than taxes - which means some form of gambling. A state-run casino in the metro area, video slots in bars all across Minnesota, perhaps a new lottery game dedicated to a specific purpose such as a new Vikings stadium.
We hope those ideas are staved off for a number of reasons.
First, we have enough gambling in Minnesota. Between that offered on American Indian reservations, charitable gambling and the State Lottery, people have plenty of places to lose their money, or to "contribute," if they prefer. Gambling addiction ranks right up with any other chemical dependency addiction, and is the cause of many embezzlement issues.
Second, allowing more state-sanctioned gambling will hurt the economic development tool which is finding some success on American Indian reservations throughout our region. The Red Lake Band of Chippewa is the most recent entry, with a brand-new casino minutes north of Bemidji.
Allowing video slot machines in bars throughout6 the Bemidji area would have to affect the economic viability of casinos at Red Lake and Leech Lake. Those casinos -- community complexes, really -- provide jobs for Indians and non-Indians alike, as well as providing needed funding to a host of tribal programs that aid Indian people. Reservations are high unemployment, high poverty places, and gaming has allowed for positive change.
Rather than bite the bullet and create a fair, progressive income tax system, lawmakers and the governor seem poised to use sin taxes to extract from those least able, or really should not be able, to gamble away their paychecks at the local bar. That's just not right.