Tax Law

State Net Capitol Journal – November 3, 2014; Massachusetts Casino Study At Odds With Experience Of Other States

MA CASINO STUDY AT ODDS WITH EXPERIENCE OF OTHER STATES: Supporters of a November ballot measure in Massachusetts (Question 3) aimed at repealing the 2011 law authorizing as many as three resort casinos and a slots parlor in the state issued a press release last month predicting the law would reduce lottery revenues and the state payments to cities and towns they afford by more than 20 percent. That dire prediction was based largely on a 2008 legislative study written by state Rep. Tom Conroy (D), a casino opponent, who still stands by the overall conclusions of that study, despite the passage of nearly seven years.

"I still have the same doubts; I still see the same risks I saw seven years ago," he said in an interview.

But the experience of other large states that have introduced casino gambling into mature lottery markets doesn't support the claims of Massachusetts' casino opponents. For instance, lottery sales in Ohio dropped after casinos opened in the state in 2012, but only by 1.5 percent, from $2.73 billion to $2.69 billion. And sales bounced back to $2.74 billion in fiscal 2014. Pennsylvania lottery sales, which stood at $3.1 billion before the first casino opened there in 2006, held flat for the next five years as an explosion of gambling parlors transformed the state into the second largest casino market in the nation behind Nevada. But the lottery sales started growing again in 2011 and reached a record $3.8 billion last fiscal year. And Clyde Barrow, chairman of the political science department at the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley, said that after casinos opened in some states, including Connecticut and New Jersey, lottery revenues "continued to grow as if nothing happened."

Massachusetts state treasurer Steve Grossman attributes the casino opponents' projections of massive lottery revenue losses to election-year politics.

"Anyone who has numbers on [potential lottery losses] is to some extent making them up," he said. "I believe rolling this study out, which is such an outlier, is a scare tactic designed to create doubt and hysteria."

The casino opponents, however, suggest Massachusetts' lottery could be more sensitive to casino competition than other states because of the amount of money spent on it, $4.8 billion last fiscal year, making it one of the most successful in the country.

"Common sense seems to dictate there is only so much disposable income out there," said former state treasurer Joe Malone, who supports repeal of the casino law. "I think the dollars will be moved around." (BOSTON GLOBE)

MORE BOTTOM GRADES THAN TOP ONES ON GOVS' FISCAL REPORT CARDS: The libertarian CATO Institute has released its biennial Fiscal Report Card on America's Governors. Four governors received "A" grades: North Carolina's Pat McCrory (R), who cut his state's personal and corporate income taxes, and repealed the estate tax; Kansas' Sam Brownback (R), who held down spending and reduced individual and small business income taxes; Maine's Paul LePage (R), who has consistently cut income taxes and held down spending, and pushed for $100 million in new tax cuts offset by an equal amount of spending cuts this year; and Indiana's Mike Pence (R), who eliminated the inheritance tax and cut individual and corporate taxes.

Twice as many governors, however, received "F"s, including: California's Jerry Brown (D), who led the effort to increase The Golden State's annual tax revenues by $6 billion a year in 2012 and is now proposing $107 billion in general-fund spending, a 20 percent increase from three years ago; Illinois' Pat Quinn (D), who proposed raising corporate taxes by over $400 million last year and whose state has the fourth-highest debt and unfunded pension liability per capita in the nation; and Oregon's John Kitzhaber (D), who has raised cigarette taxes, hospital taxes, corporate income taxes and individual income taxes, and increased general fund spending more than 12 percent in 2014. (FORBES, STATE NET)

FAILING BRIDGES ECONOMIC CONCERN IN MS: A bridge failure like the collapse of the I-35W Mississippi River Bridge in Minneapolis in 2007 that killed 13 people may be one of the biggest fears state transportation officials have about the aging infrastructure they oversee. But officials in Mississippi — and likely elsewhere — have something else to worry about as well: the economic impact of that deterioration.

"There's a serious problem out there with bridges," said Tom King, who represents Mississippi's southern district on the state's Transportation Commission. "We're having to post a lot of bridges, lowering the weight limits, and that's affect[ing] farmers in north Mississippi and loggers in my part of the state. Now you're talking about economic impact."

Mississippi Department of Transportation officials say there are 700 bridges in the state with such weight limits, forcing heavy vehicles to use longer and costlier alternate routes, and replacing just those posted bridges would cost about $700 million. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

BUDGETS IN BRIEF: Trump Entertainment Resorts Inc. has asked the NEW JERSEY Gaming, Sports and Entertainment Advisory Commission to put together a funding package to keep the Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City open, since that cash-strapped city has refused to approve $175 million in property tax abatements for the bankrupt casino operator. The Taj Mahal provides nearly 3,000 jobs (BLOOMBERG). • The Washington, D.C.-based Tax Foundation has ranked NEW JERSEY's business tax climate the worst in the nation for the second year in a row and the third time in four years (NJ.COM). • After 12 years of discussion and pilot projects, OREGON's Department of Transportation says it's ready to launch a public trial of a pay-as-you-drive transportation tax with 5,000 drivers. The drivers will be charged 1.5 cents per mile and billed monthly (OREGONLIVE.COM). • Former Major League Baseball pitcher Curt Schilling and three other former executives of RHODE ISLAND-based 38 Studios have reached a tentative $300,000 settlement in the federal bankruptcy case involving the failed, taxpayer-supported video came company (PROVIDENCE JOURNAL).

- Compiled by KOREY CLARK

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