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Virginia group enters ad fray, opposes session

Virginia group enters ad fray, opposes session

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In what is becoming a battle of advertising dollars, a Virginia-based anti-tax group has aired the first in a new series of radio spots denouncing a possible special legislative session that could end with casino owners paying lower taxes.

Taxpayers Protection Alliance, based in Alexandria, Va., aired its first ad Friday. A coalition of labor unions has already aired radio and television advertisements supporting a special session, where approval could be given for the construction of a casino at National Harbor in Prince George’s County.

David Williams, the tax alliance president, called it “inconceivable” that Gov. Martin O’Malley would consider bringing lawmakers back to the State House without a true emergency.

“This will not help create jobs in Garrett or Wicomico counties,” Williams said. “This special session will not come up with a comprehensive plan to help small businesses begin and grow. And, it will not deal with some natural disaster.”

The ad juxtaposes a proposed reduction in the tax rate on slot machines with legislation — passed in a May special session — that raises taxes on Marylanders earning more than $100,000 and couples earning more than $150,000.

“We are not opposed to gaming overall,” Williams said. “What we are opposed to is giving tax breaks to casino operators while increasing taxes on hard-working and hard-pressed Marylanders to pay for it.”

Maryland residents are already paying for the state’s gambling experiment.

Warren G. Deschenaux, director of the state Office of Policy Analysis, said last month that slots revenue was not covering the cost of buying or leasing machines and allocating money to the Education Trust Fund, horse racing and other areas. About 114 percent of slots revenue is being allocated, with the overrun coming out of the state’s General Fund, Deschenaux said.

A plan agreed to by most members of a work group formed to study expanded gambling actually would have saved the state money, according to a joint study by PricewaterhouseCoopers and state fiscal analysts.

The state would have generated additional revenue by collecting taxes from a sixth casino at National Harbor, legalizing and taxing table games such as black jack and roulette and shifting the burden of buying slot machines to casino operators.

But those measures were also dependent upon lowering the tax rate on slot machines from 67 percent to 62 percent, a reduction that ultimately torpedoed consensus in the work group.

Building Trades for the National Harbor, a group spearheaded by the Washington, D.C. Building Trades Council, aired its newest in a series of ads Friday.

The ad mocks Annapolis lawmakers for failing to reach consensus on expanding gambling even as Maryland residents spend money at casinos in neighboring Pennsylvania, Delaware and West Virginia, where table games are legal.


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