Governor wants casino money for budget gap

AUGUSTA  — A proposal by Gov. Paul LePage would take $14 million in casino funds earmarked for public schools and move it to the state General Fund to help fill a $112 million budget gap.

Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

A portion of the craps table is seen with other tables and slot machines in the background at the Oxford Casino in 2012.

Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

The floor of the Oxford Casino in 2012.

Democratic lawmakers, including the chairman of the Legislature's Education and Cultural Affairs Committee, said that would set "a really bad precedent," according to a report in the Portland Press Herald on Friday.

The proposal is part of a plan that helps solve a budget shortfall in the state's current fiscal year budget ending in June of this year. Lawmakers are expected to settle on the supplemental budget sometime in February.

Voters approved the Oxford Casino in 2010 under the promise that 46 percent of the profits would help fund public education in Maine.

Scott Smith, a spokesman for the casino in the town of Oxford, said Friday that the owners and operators of the casino were proud of the way the referendum was written and of how casino revenue would help the intended recipients.

Smith stopped short of criticizing the governor's budget proposal, saying only that casino officials would defer to the Legislature on how the money is divvied up.

"It's just that simple," Smith said. "We are really proud of the job creation and the private investment and everything that we are doing but very gratified also with the recipients that were part our initial referendum. But we do respect the legislative process and how that works."

Dennis Bailey, a Portland-based political consultant who helped organize opposition to several statewide casino votes in Maine, including Oxford, said he wasn't surprised LePage was looking to divert the funds from schools.

"One of our objections has always been that once you let casinos in the door with big payoffs to state government, the state becomes dependent on the revenues, the same way a gambling addict needs his fix," Bailey wrote in a message.

"Government is supposed to be looking out for the welfare of its citizens; instead, it in effect becomes a partner in fleecing them," Bailey wrote. "This is just another example of how the voters get swindled."

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FRANK EARLEY's picture

When did the casino's become government entities?????

I must have missed something, I could have sworn a casino was a private business. When did the Governor become eligible to reach into the profits of private business to supply the "General fund". Oh, those little wheels are turning in his head, one idea after another, of course one as dumb as the other. I suppose next month "Hannaford" will be financing DHHS.
I think if he keeps coming up with ideas like this, he may actually somehow elevate himself to the second least popular Governor in the country. After all, everyone does enjoys a good laugh.....

Carl Kimball's picture

Casino Money

What is it with this guy. First he's for education then he wants to punish the kids for the lack of control of our so called leaders. A budget is simple, you have money you spend on what you NEED. You don't have money you spend on nothing. Learnt that in Grammar school. That's like President Johnson taking money out of Social Security to back a not popular war, then NEVER putting the money back.
Plus, what is this bulling and intimidating attitude. Back in the day he would been ran out of town on a rail. Looks like his DNA is coming out. (just my opinion)

AL PELLETIER's picture

The old cookie jar trick.

When I voted for the Oxford Casino one of the factors that influenced my vote was how the profits would be divvied up. I believed that if a good portion of those profits went to schools and education perhaps our property taxes might stabilize for a while.
Now Lepage wants to put that money in the states cookie jar to be used for what ever.
Never mind ignoring the will of the people by not releasing the bonds we voted on to create jobs and repair some decaying infrastructure now he's rewriting the casino referendum we voted on. By the way, during this bond issue delay our state credit rating has been downgraded, now that bond money will be more expensive.
Our state revenues and expenditures were mismanaged by Baldacci and fixing the mess is not an easy task for Lepage, but ignoring the will of the citizens of Maine is unacceptable.

GARY SAVARD's picture

Hard to believe, but I agree

Hard to believe, but I agree with you, Al.

Steve  Dosh's picture

Governor wants casino money for budget gap

Hon Gov. Friday night
Everyone wants casino money for budget gap . That's why they gamble . Something for nothing /s Steve


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