TOM WARD - State is counting on you to deliver its new jackpot

TOM WARD - State is counting on you to deliver its new jackpot

It certainly was very good news for Rhode Islanders last week when the semi-annual revenue estimates showed the state with an extra $135 million to put into next year’s budget. Some of the money ($75 million) is more for state coffers this fiscal year (ending June 30), and part of it ($59.4 million) is expected next year, according to The Providence Journal. Sadly, all of those dollars will be easily swallowed up in spending. The good news? The new-found funds allow the second year of cuts to the hated auto tax, cuts credited to House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello, so we can be grateful for that. Keeping that cut – keeping our money from government hands – will get more difficult each year.

I had to chuckle when it was reported that about $28 million of next year’s boost in revenue is tied to the federal tax cuts across the U.S., courtesy of Republicans. “On Thursday,” the Journal wrote, “she (Gov. Gina Raimondo) declined to comment on the tax cut’s impact.”

In other words, President Trump and GOP Congressional leaders shouldn’t expect a thank you note from Raimondo for the improving economy anytime soon. In fact, her campaign will just keep spewing her anti-Trump venom at Cranston Mayor Allan Fung, her assumed GOP opponent. Here’s the Raimondo campaign’s Jan. 30 installment: “We need to be prepared to fight back whenever Republicans like Trump and Fung start peddling fear and hatred in Rhode Island.” Honestly, I wonder if they know how ridiculous they sound?

One of the budget “fixes” that might come with our newfound wealth is stopping (for this year anyway) the “sweep” of money collected in other places to patch budget holes. Earlier this year there was an outcry over the state’s collecting 911 emergency system fees for improvements there, but blowing the money someplace else instead.

This mini-gusher gave high hopes to our leaders last weekend, but Monday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision sent them into Joyland! The Court voted to allow sports betting, something state leaders have been counting on. Honestly, I give them credit for getting ahead of that with Twin River and other partners, even if the planning was born of the state’s financial desperation.

It should be pointed out, if only to fluster the Democrats’ and progressives’ spending junkies, that the 6-3 vote was carried by the Court’s conservative justices (the five appointed by evil Republicans, along with Justice Kagan), in a case brought by former GOP Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey. Once again, there will be no thank you note. For Rhode Island, it’s money, Money, MONEY!

How much? It’s hard to know. But Raimondo estimated in January sports betting will bring in around $28 million in the fiscal year beginning July 1. It could grow from there. The plan is to operate a sports book out of Twin River’s casinos in Lincoln – and soon, Tiverton, probably by the fall.

How long will it take to move sports betting online? Not long. Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal reported that “industry consultant Eilers & Krejcik Gaming LLC found that total annual revenue from sports betting at casinos and racetracks in all 50 states would amount to $7.1 billion, whereas adding online wagers would more than double the annual revenue to about $16 billion.”

In a world where lazy people order paper towels from Amazon, and states are searching between the sofa cushions for revenue, how long will it take for gambling to be on your phones? You have to ask?

If you are anti-gaming, and think you’ll have a say in this, think again. The state has decided that your votes allowing table games a few years ago covered sports betting. So that’s that.

Personally, I’m not anti-gaming, though I know it’s a vice that can harm marriages, families and businesses. I take comfort in the fact that, for those without addiction, all betting remains a voluntary tax. Like alcohol, cigarettes, casinos or the lottery – and soon enough, sports betting and marijuana – nobody forces you to take part. Spend wisely.

Ward is publisher of The Valley Breeze

Comments

Its typical for republicans to sit on their crumbling "fiscal conservative" tower and talk the talk but in reality are limping the limp. It must have been the democratic minority in congress that passed the biggest spending bill in history while borrowing more into the debt than ever before. Somehow Raimondo and other democrats are heathens for deficit spending, but when the GOP do it, its 4 tha Troopz and GOTTA happen. And then, When Raimondo and the state get a boost from the Republican spending, she gets projected to be the spending junkie? Come off it Tom, your partisanship is showing.