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Lower Shore Legislators Divided Over Slots and Taxes

On November 19th, 2007, Maryland's Lower Shore Legislators came home, some triumphant, others dissatisfied. After almost three weeks, the General Assembly members decided to raise taxes but pushed the decision to the Lower Shore residents.

More than $1 billion of profits is expected to produce higher profit, sales, corporate profit, vehicle and tobacco taxes. Property tax relief in Gov. Martin O'Malley's original casino plan passed to the legislators were withdrawn as well as the larger tax credits for senior citizens. While the majority from the Democratic Party in both the Senate and House of Delegate chambers utilizes their numbers to support the packages, the votes were not exactly partisan.

Lower Shore members are also divided in their support. A lone person on the extreme was Appropriations Chairman Norman Conway, a Democrat from 38B-Wicomico, who supported for increase in taxes and the slots proposal-authorize a referendum which allows voters to decide whether or not to allow the slots next November.

The Ocean Downs in Worcester County has an inside racing track on 2,500 slot machines, while 4,750 slot machines in Anne Arundel County, 2,500 slot machines in Cecil County, 3,750 slot machines in Baltimore City and 1,500 slot machines in Rocky Gap State Park in Cumberland are also proposed.

Conway admitted that the taxes plan not popular but he said that the residents will enjoy a good highway because of the transportation taxes, Ocean City and their view with the boost of beach replenishment money and good schools with the help of billions of dollars in aid. Wicomico County schools get more than fifty million dollars in aid last year.

The House Leader commented that his committee will also make sure that the $500 million in cuts the legislature approved will be accepted into the 2009 budget of the Governor. O'Malley does not pass his budget until January 2008 but Conway said that he expects that these budget cuts to cap the budget increase in 2008 to five percent.

On the other end is Sen. J. Lowell Stoltzfus, Republican-38-Somerset said that the whole meeting is disappointing. Delegates Addie Eckardt, Republican-37B-Dorchester and Jeannie Haddaway, Republican-37B-Talbot also voted against the main tax and slot machine proposals. Delegate Page Elmore, Republican-38A-Somerset conceptualize an amendment to keep hotels, motels and other lodging establishments should be place 10 miles from all slots facilities in the state.

Sen. Rich Colburn, Republican-37-Dorchester has the same opinion like Elmore and voted against the tax increases. But he is supportive with the slot machine proposals and the implementation bills. Colburn commented that he supported a referendum on the slot machines and the implementation proposals.

Colburn commented that he has been a long-time supporter of slot machines so it will be hypocritical of him to vote against it. He stated that he would like for the state to ask decision of the voters and move on from that point. But he was not happy with the tax proposals that will have a big effect on Eastern Shore residents.

Delegate Jim Mathias, A Democrat-38B-Worcester supported the slots and tax proposal. But he said that he is more in favor of the slot machines because of more approval for the slot machines that those opposed against it, but he could not go against the decision of the Worcester County Commissioners who voted five-two against the slot machines. Delegate Rudy Cane, a Democrat-37A-Wicomico voted in favor of raising taxes instead of allowing slot machines.


Thursday, 10 January 2008
Alex Van Der Butz