There's a famous scene in Robert Penn Warren's political novel, "All the Kings Men," where Willie Stark delivers a fiery speech telling the people that they have been lied to and that the political establishment was counting on them being a bunch of uninformed hicks. In my mind, Question 7, the gambling initiative on the November ballot, is a clear attempt by the political establishment to pull a fast one on the citizens of Maryland.
Let's look at the facts.
In May, despite my and many of my colleagues' best efforts, the Democratic leadership decided that those with an annual income of $100,000 were now considered "wealthy" in Maryland. The legislature decided that these new "wealthy people" who make $100,000 or more would now see an increase in their state income tax from 4.75 percent to 5 percent. Three months later, in a special session, both Republicans and Democrats were back in Annapolis asking the voters of Maryland to lower the tax rate on Maryland's casino operators from 67 percent to less than 50 percent. That's right, Maryland has the most aggressive tax on casinos in the Union, and now the powers that be wanted to lower that rate from 67 percent to 50 percent. All of this in exchange for a sixth casino in Prince George's County.
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To add insult to injury, while Maryland state government continues to extract personal property taxes from hardworking men and women who own businesses, this legislation will exempt every casino operator from paying personal property taxes on any machines or other equipment in those facilities for life. Maryland business owners who struggle daily to provide jobs and benefits for their employees and keep investing in their businesses for growth and stability will continue to be taxed yearly on every computer, desk, chair, fax machine and for any and all business-related personal property, but amazingly the multi-millionaire owners of the six casinos will receive a lifetime exemption on their personal property taxes.
How does the establishment think they can get away with this? They're counting on the millions of dollars of ads by MGM Grand and the allure of a few thousand temporary construction jobs to carry the day. They're also counting on voters to be uninformed hicks — or to be so disgusted by the maneuvering of both sides that you just vote "Yes" to put the issue behind you.
But there is another option. Vote "No" on Question 7 and send us back to Annapolis and have us do what we should have done in the first place — legalize table games at the five initial casinos and tell the casino mega-millionaires to pay the 67 percent tax that they are supposed to pay.
Sen. James Brochin, Towson
The writer, a Democrat, represents District 42 Baltimore County in the Maryland General Assembly.