The Baltimore Sun

Slots offer little help to close budget gap

Gov. Martin O'Malley's decision to go forward with a special session of the General Assembly has stirred a lot of legislative and public concern over his proposed package of taxes and slots to address the state's $1.7 billion budget shortfall ("A vote on slots called odd bet," Oct. 17). But slots should not be part of a big, complicated revenue plan.

State fiscal analysts have calculated that slots would raise only $27 million for next year's budget. That money is really peanuts and would be little immediate help in reducing the deficit.

The governor's position on slots appears to be changing - with hints he might support a referendum to let the public decide on slots in a 2008 vote.

State Sen. President Thomas V. Mike Miller, who has long been a strong supporter of legalizing slots, has now started to question whether the votes are there to pass a slots bill in his chamber with some Republican senators withdrawing support for slots.

House Speaker Michael E. Busch does not support legalizing slots and has strongly represented his chamber's reluctance to use slots to subsidize racing and gambling interests.

So why waste a lot of time and public expense dealing with slots in the special session?

I urge the governor to reconsider his options and our state legislators to oppose slots and move on to consider other measures that will address tax reform and fairness.

Don Schroeder


The writer is bishop's deputy for public policy for the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland.

Cut spending growth to solve the shortfall

In its editorial "Reality-based budgeting" (Oct. 21), The Sun claims that "anyone who claims cuts can balance the budget is either ill-informed or baldly mendacious."

But The Sun's editors don't need to use big words to try and confuse everyone. They should just check out the state budgets during the Ehrlich administration.

The rate of spending growth in his budgets generally exceeded the rate of inflation. But former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. turned a budget deficit into a budget surplus before he left office.

The O'Malley administration spent the surplus and now claims it faces a "structural deficit."

The only thing the editorial had right was suggesting that the legislature should consider "eliminating government programs that are no longer vital."

But instead of cutting the increasing size of government, the liberal tax-and-spend legislature and Gov. Martin O'Malley are likely to continue to increase spending and the size of government.

Mark Olanoff


The writer is a member of the Baltimore County Republican Central Committee.

State just can't cure all of our social ills

One's conclusion after reading The Sun's editorial "Reality-based budgeting" (Oct. 21) depends on whose reality is being discussed.

Some Republicans and other spending critics have proposed not cutting spending but holding the increase in spending to 3.5 percent along with a modest slots program as a possible way to avoid the regressive sales, cigarette and gasoline tax increases that are only part of the governor's list of sources for new revenue.

But this reality, of course, is irrelevant for The Sun and most others from the left, who apparently believe that the state should take care of all societal problems and ills.

If that socialist idea is to be the basis for our state budget, the governor's current tax grab is but a tiny down payment on the continual expansion of the state bureaucracy and its unquenchable thirst for new revenue that state taxpayers will face in the coming years.

Doug Lombardo


State needs revenue from gambling now

I hope House Speaker Michael E. Busch and other opponents of slots realize that hundreds of millions of dollars in gambling spending is now leaving Maryland and helping boost the revenues of our neighbors in West Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey ("Leaders hopeful of OK for tax plan," Oct. 23).

I congratulate Gov. Martin O'Malley and state Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller for their efforts to pass a slots bill.

If they can prevail by passing a slots bill now or setting up a referendum on slots for next November, gambling revenues could close about one-third of our state's projected $1.7 billion budget shortfall.

I believe, however, that action should be taken immediately, and we should not wait another year to add these funds to the state treasury.

Jerry Todd


Reject further funds for failed war efforts

A headline on Page 3A of Tuesday's Sun reads "Bush asks for $46 billion more for wars" (Oct. 23).

Thus our president asks Congress to spend more money we do not have on the war, which will create a debt burden that will encumber our children and our grandchildren.

Yet on Page 2A of the same edition of The Sun, an article outlined the extraordinary lack of oversight for some of the money intended to support our troops ("Reports fault State Dept.," Oct. 23).

Where has the money gone? No one knows.

The State Department cannot identify what it has done with $1.2 billion.

And where is Osama bin Laden? Five years and $610 billion spent on our various wars since 2001, he is still producing audiotapes to rally his troops ("Bin Laden calls on insurgents to unite," Oct. 23).

Clearly, President Bush's strategy is a failure.

Perhaps it is time for Congress to heed the advice of a former first lady and "Just Say No."

Shannon Fritz

Ellicott City

A foolish ruling to bar fingerprints

Here we have yet another case of a judge apparently run amok ("Judge bars use of fingerprints in murder trial," Oct. 23)

Yes, mistakes have been made in the use of fingerprint evidence, for various reasons. But mistakes have also been made in the use of DNA evidence in similar court cases.

Any process, no matter how accurate, is subject to the weaknesses of the humans who administer it.

This judge is human too, and subject to making stupid decisions just like the rest of us - and she has done so in this case.

Robert L. DiStefano


Baltimore is already main Matisse center

The Princeton University art historian who opined that the Baltimore Museum of Art "could easily become the main Matisse center in America" is about three decades behind the times ("Gift, exhibition confirm the BMA as Matisse center," Oct 21).

While my wife and I visited the Matisse Museum in Nice, France, in the early 1970s, we overheard the museum director remark to a roomful of American high school students: "Of course you know that the best Matisse collection in your country is in Baltimore."

As the class exited, I revealed that my wife and I were both from Baltimore.

My reward: a kiss on both cheeks.

Bennard Perlman


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