The General Assembly overwhelmingly has approved an extraordinary budget â€” with unprecedented debt. The two-year, $18 billion spending plan has been called the most education-friendly and fiscally frightful in recent memory. It contains $2.38 billion in debt, breaking the record $1.9 billion added last year.
Once again, Sen. David Boswell (D-Owensboro) stood on the floor of the Senate Monday to remind colleagues that their unwillingness to give casino gaming a chance is a mammoth missed opportunity â€” as mammoth as the tax revenues that are gushing across the river like rush hour traffic.
â€œOne billion dollars a year is leaving this state,â€ he said.
Last session, the Daviess County Democrat presented a bill that provided for a 35-percent gaming tax that would have generated more than $460 million a year.
â€œWhat are we going to do about the $800 million annual debt service that weâ€™re expected to pay?â€ Boswell asked.
This session commenced with high hopes for expanded gaming legislation, but leadership proved too timid. Gov. Fletcher wonâ€™t alienate his conservative constituency by publicly supporting slot machines at the tracks, while Churchill Downsâ€™ officials wonâ€™t stop alienating tasteful Kentuckians with architectural abominations or threats to headquarter elsewhere.
The bottom line is that Boswell has a point. The time has come for Kentucky to stop losing by default and start competing for a piece of the casino pie.
Using generous portions of the proceeds to identify and treat our addicts in a progressive, effective way would build the argument that it would be immoral not to take the initiative. The Healing Place, after all, is a national model for substance abuse recovery. Why not make Louisville the epicenter of treatment for compulsive gambling?
â€œI hope that we will open our eyes and allow the voters of this state to vote on a constitutional amendment to take advantage of this revenue,â€ Boswell said.
BY STEVE SHAW