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Gambling not keyto Pennsy contest

August 06, 2002|by BOB MAGINNIS

Unlike the Maryland governor's race, both candidates in the Pennsylvania gubernatorial race support using slot-machine revenue as a new source of state revenue. What they don't agree on is where the cash would go.

After the measures lawmakers took to pass this year's budget, it's clear something has to happen. In a desperate attempt to avoid raising taxes in an election, lawmakers agreed to use half the state's Rainy Day funds and also issue bonds to finance a business tax cut.

It's a trick they can't do twice, a fact most voters seem to realize. Terry Madonna, chairman of the political science department at Millersville University, told the Associated Press that polls show the public backs slots at the state's four major horse tracks.

Both candidates feel that's a good idea as well. Edward G. Rendell, a Democratic, wants to direct the slot revenue to education, while Republican Mike Fisher wants to use it for senior-citizen programs, including a prescription drug assistance plan.

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Rendell's plan would be popular with those who believe that property taxes already pay too large a proportion of school expenses. Fisher's plan would appeal to those who know the crushing financial burden that prescription drug costs place on the elderly.

We favor a compromise. Since the federal government would have more leverage to get the drug companies to lower prices, we'd like to see only half the slot money directed there and the rest to education. When the federal plan arrives - probably just in time for the next election - the gambling money can all go to education.

Since both candidates favor gambling in some form and must negotiate the final plan with the legislature, voters would do well to decided who's their favorite based on how they answer the following question:

What fees or taxes would you raise, or what programs would you cut, to balance Pennsylvania's budget without draining the state's reserve fund?

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