Thursday, May 19, 2005

10: “A Crime Most Foul, in two Acts”

Today’s Gettysburg Times has a headline for a front page story that says, “DeWeese, Coy both Civil War Buffs”. What the article is about is the current Pennsylvania State Representative William H. DeWeese, leader of the House Democrats, and Jeffrey W. Coy, a member of the Commonwealth’s casino licensing authority, are both Civil War buffs, and that is supposed to make you feel more secure about a casino not coming to the Gettysburg area.

Instead, what it does is point the finger directly at one of the things that are wrong with the state’s Act 71, which authorizes the establishment and control of casino gaming in Pennsylvania. Not only are legislators and the governor the ones who appoint members to the casino licensing authority, they are also permitted to own a percentage of the casinos that are authorized.

Does no one else see a clear conflict of interest in this?

Further, the casino legislation allows the licensing authority to grant a casino license anywhere in the state, no matter what local zoning ordinances exist, and no matter what local populations say about the presence of a casino in their community.

The citizens of Pennsylvania have no legal say in the location and operation of casinos in Pennsylvania. There is, to put it simply, no legal recourse available other than to go to court to fight the imposition of a casino in any community. There is no appeal, no due process, available to the community. If the licensing board says the casino goes here, then it goes here.

If you think that being a Civil War buff will have any effect on the decision to locate a casino here in Gettysburg, think again. Greed trumps history every time. It matters not that the history of the Battle of Gettysburg far exceeds the boundaries of the National Park here. Bull dozers beat minié balls, especially in Straban Township.

“But wait! There’s more!”

The good and wonderful folk who work in the House and Senate of the State Capitol building in Harrisburg have even more in store for you. Once they passed Act 71, they passed its companion legislation, Act 72. “What is this gem”, you might ask.

Act 72 gives local school boards the option to “opt in” by surrendering taxing authority to their constituents, and accept the largesse of the state in the form of a cut of the revenues generated by – guess what! -- the casinos created by Act 71! Those school districts that “opt in” to Act 72 are then required to reduce property taxes in their districts. Of course, it is optional. School boards can, like the Gettysburg Area School District, “opt out” of Act 72, thereby retaining their taxing authority (as they did, and they promptly raised taxes), but will not share in the casino generated revenues that are earmarked for raising the quality of our children’s education in Pennsylvania.

Aren’t our legislators grand to think of their constituents in this manner? Here we have two legislative acts, one generating revenue which can be forced on a community, and the other, optionally spending that revenue, all to benefit the children of the Commonwealth, and to reduce taxes on property owners, especially those on fixed incomes (AKA: Senior Citizens). It’s a no-brainer! A win-win situation! And, while they are at it they will give your school district the right to not accept the gambling money, and remain the bad guys who are constantly raising property taxes, even while forcing a casino where it clearly is not wanted.

Aren’t our legislators grand to shove a moral dilemma down the throats of the populace of this state? As much as I cringe when my taxes are raised, I tip my hat to the GASD School Board, who turned down the money because it was “gambling tainted”. It is not that I am anti-gambling…I have been to the track and to Vegas, and enjoyed losing my money as much as anyone can. It is, rather, that I admire someone taking a stand for moral values. While some of the people in the school district are like I am, in that they enjoy a wager on occasion, some of them are not. I would not think of forcing gambling on anyone who does not want it.

It is an arrogant insult to wave millions of dollars at a school board and local populations and ask them to trade those moral values for tax relief.

It was moral values that spoke in the last national election. Apparently our state legislators failed to heed that message. And not just from one party, but from both. They are arrogant of power, and blinded by greed.

Remember in November! Before you vote, GettysBLOG!


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