State House Memo: Here’s why I’ll vote against casino bill
Barbara French talks to her neighbor Yolande Nicknair about her campaign for state representative, as well as other democratic candidates running for office in New Hampshire. Tuesday, October 23, 2012. Henniker, NH. (SAMANTHA GORESH/Monitor Staff)
The state of New Hampshire has a revenue problem. That is not something new. I was first in the Legislature in 1992. We had what is called a structural deficit, and we still do. We have always had difficulty funding our obligations because of our piecemeal tax structure and fees on most everything we can think of. That doesn’t have to be. We are No. 6 per capita income in the country, according to the US Census Bureau in 2011. We could have a comprehensive, responsible tax structure.
We are now facing tough economic times, with many citizen and legislative needs – expanded Medicaid, the state university system, mental health services and the disability wait list – that we are obliged to take care of. I worked on many of these issues during my professional life.
I have always supported, and am on record voting for, a fair, equitable, sustainable tax structure, something everyone contributes to based on ability to pay. Residents who can’t pay – because they are out of work or sick – don’t have to pay.
The Legislature is now considering a proposal for one high-end casino in southern New Hampshire to help solve New Hampshire’s needs. I don’t appreciate being told that I’m not responsible if I don’t support this proposal. I actually find the gambling proposal to be irresponsible. I don’t believe that it is fair, equitable and sustainable. Everyone will not play. It has nothing to do with our ability to pay. In fact, it fosters an attitude of “let someone else pay.” Currently gambling revenue is down all over the country, and a casino in Atlantic City, N.J., has gone bankrupt.
Gambling is destructive, causing divorce in families, increase in welfare rolls due to family bankruptcy, and suicide. There is actually help for those who become addicted in the proposal, an admission that gambling is a major problem. It can hurt our communities and businesses as people only have so much disposable income. Since the casino will have restaurants, hotels and theaters, local enterprises may go out of business. The crime rate will go up.
The gambling industry will eventually have control over our state, as it needs to make a certain profit. One high-end casino will actually lead to much more casino activity throughout the state. The revenue is questionable and may not be what is predicted.
The proposal is not just a jobs bill, but it is long-term public policy and should be studied from that viewpoint. The implications of casino gambling are very troubling.
Why would I vote for something so destructive? I won’t. I do not believe we should enact something that we know is destructive, can hurt people’s lives and destroy local business.
We need to have a constructive discussion about economic policy and what the policy means to us as citizens and to our state. In other words, what are the needs in our state, revenue possibilities and the process to take in order to meet these needs.
I am responsible, and I will work on a process to meet the needs of our citizens and communities.
(Rep. Barbara C. French is a Democrat from Henniker.)