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Editorial - This plan's worth a look

May 14, 1997

Editorial - This plan's worth a look

Most of those who spoke at Wednesday night's public hearing on Washington County's budget could be dividied into two camps - those who wanted taxes raised and those who didn't. Only one speaker proposed a third way to do what everyone wanted - to fully fund the school budget while still putting several million dollars toward the county's water and sewer operations.

That speaker was former state delegate Paul Muldowney, who recently resigned from the county's Gaming Commission. He asked the commissioners to confirm that a tax increase wouldn't be necessary if they didn't have to use several million dollars of taxpayers' money to deal with the water/sewer crisis.

All sat silent and still, expect for Commissioner Jim Wade, who confirmed Muldowney's premise with a nod of his head. Then Muldowney proposed his plan, prefaced by a short reminder that proceeds from games of chance in Maryland are generally used for the benefit of the public.

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Given that there's $12 million in annual proceeds from tip-jar gambling, Muldowney proposed dedicating 10 percent to county fire company operations, 20 percent to charities and 30 percent to paying off the water/sewer debt, now estimated at $56 million. The fire companies and charities would both net more than they do at present, Muldowney said. But there would also have to be greater share coming from somewhere else, presumably the private clubs, taverns and restaurants.

Barring a special session of the Maryland General Assembly, it's probably not going to happen before the commissioners pass their budget, but that doesn't mean that it shouldn't be studied between now and January, when the 1998 session convenes.

Who should study it? We suggest that all of those groups that had a hand in drafting the original gaming bill be called back together for a look at Muldowney's plan. Perhaps they will decide it's not feasible. Perhaps they will decide it's a great idea. The only unacceptable possibility here is ruling out a change without a good hard look at what that change would do.

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