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The Baltimore Sun

Slots will support services state needs

The Baltimore Sun made the right call in endorsing the referendum to legalize slot machine gambling at five locations around the state ("Yes on Question 2," editorial, Oct. 19).

As the editorial notes, slots could provide as much as $600 million in new revenues for the state at a time when budgets are tightening and communities are finding it harder to provide the vital services the public relies upon.

AFSCME represents more than 50,000 state, county, municipal and other public service employees who make Maryland happen every day. We maintain roads, care for the sick and elderly, make our schools clean and safe places for children to learn, manage water and waste effectively and much more.

And we know that we must ensure that the services we all depend on continue to be adequately funded.

But if we don't pass Question 2, the state's budget crisis will only get worse.

Without this new revenue, taxpayers across the state could face a severe reduction of services, an increase in taxes or both.

A vote for Question 2 will help address our state's budget crisis and protect vital services.

While our members recognize that there are risks involved in increased gambling, we also know that the risks of rejecting slots are too great to ignore at a critical moment such as this.

Our schools and communities around the state deserve more.

Meanwhile, neighboring states such as Delaware and West Virginia are reaping the benefits of slots.

Let's bring that revenue back home to Maryland.

We must vote for Question 2 and support slots on Election Day.

Glenard S. Middleton, Baltimore

The writer is executive director of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Maryland Council No. 67.

Cut state funding for private schools

In view of Maryland's financial crisis and the cuts that are likely to be made in public school funding, wouldn't it make sense to cut back on the millions of dollars spent annually on faith-based private schools in our state ("Slots no longer seen as fiscal fix," Oct. 19)?

And wouldn't it make sense for the General Assembly next year to confine tax support to the public schools that exist to serve all our children?

Edd Doerr, Silver Spring

The writer is president of Americans for Religious Liberty.

Scratching the surface of ways to track citizens

I was intrigued by The Baltimore Sun's article about using a GPS device to track vehicle mileage and thereby calculate a road-use tax ("Baltimore to test-drive gasoline-tax alternative," Oct. 20).

At first I thought this was technological overkill. After all, for decades, road-going vehicles have been equipped with a reliable, proven device for measuring miles driven; it's called an odometer.

Of course, GPS allows a finer-grained analysis of driving routes, and could therefore theoretically be used to apportion tax payments more equitably among the various road-maintaining jurisdictions.

But this refinement of the user-fee concept need not stop with road-use taxes. So I have a modest proposal.

With an implantable nanotech GPS chip inserted in the body shortly after birth, the government could create an unobtrusive means of tailoring user fees not only for driving patterns but for all public property and rights of way.

Users of public transportation could be billed for miles ridden, eliminating the need for fare collection devices and personnel.

Sidewalks and bicycle trails require maintenance too. Why not make the heaviest users pay a greater share?

How about people who use public parks and recreation areas? Shouldn't they pay more than those who merely sit on their couches at home?

And if an individual, say, frequently uses a restroom in a public building, isn't it only fair that he or she pay a greater share of the cleaning costs?

Yes, there are all sorts of ways the government can use detailed knowledge of our whereabouts to help us.

And we have only scratched the surface of the uses of modern technology to enhance government efficiency. Even more innovative ideas are surely on the horizon.

These are certainly interesting times for U.S. citizens.

L.S. Wasserman, Baltimore

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