Like most liberals, I don't like the idea of giving in to the lure of casino gambling to solve the state's fiscal problems. However, we do have a siginficant fiscal problem and there is no reasonable solution in sight. For starters, we may be at the end of a period of economic growth that began with a climb out of the recession that began in 2001. Today the Federal Reserve made a larger than expected cut in interest rates in order to stave off a possible recession. Yet during a time of economic growth, and increasing tax revenues, our state budget has consistently been balanced by digging into the state's rainy day fund. This year's budget was balanced by using about $500 million from the rainy day fund. So, just to maintain state services at the present level, our spending is outstripping our revenue growth. That is to say nothing of our aspirations. Health care costs arising out of health care reform will continue to grow by hundreds of millions of dollars annually. That takes away almost any money we might have for other new initiatives. Perhaps the most important initiative would be the implementation of early childhood education for all children in Massachustts. According to the advocates fo early childhood education, that would cost the state another $600 million dollars annually at full implementation. Don't forget transportation infrustructure at $1 billion a year. More local aide and property tax relief, many legislators ar incredulous that local officials can even ask. So we need revenue. And even if casino gambling were to provide the state with an additional $400 million a year, that is really not enough to match our needs, let alone our ambitions. So the logical strategy is to try to leverage the casino issue to include unpopular tax increases as well. There is no possibility that the legislature will take up any significant tax initiatives until the casino issue has been put to rest. If casinos fail, it is very unlikely that the legislature will turn around and raise income taxes, sales taxes, corporate taxes, or anything else. Liberals have a powerful leader in the casino debate in Speaker DiMasi. Through the Speaker, they may have enough leverage to pare down the casion proposal and rasie other revenues. Wisely, the Speaker has sought to avoid binging a series of smaller tax votes before his members, prefering to have one large tax package. And while the Governor has mad good proposals to raise corporate taxes and teal estate taxes on telecommunications companies, he seems unwilling to endorse any kind of a large broad based tax. That makes casinos the best vehicle liberals have to raise the taxes we need.
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