As Casinos Thrive, Lawmakers Take School “Lockbox” Action
BALTIMORE (WBFF) - Maryland Casinos are raking in the cash. With $128 million in revenue, the state just recorded its best January ever. At the same time, legislation is making its way through Annapolis ensuring all that money is used the way it was intended – with no strings attached.
On Wednesday, Governor Larry Hogan announced “lockbox” legislation to ensure casino money adds to mandated education spending – not replaces it. The legislation is called “The Commitment to Education Act of 2018.”
“Shell games and fiscal slights of hand became the norm for state government,” said the governor. “Today we are here to fix this. The additional revenues that were promised for the classrooms, should be required to go into the classrooms.”
“The Governor back then. The legislative leaders. All of them knew this was fundamentally a lie,” Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot told Project Baltimore last April when he sat down to discuss where the casino money was going.
“It was a crass, cynical effort to dupe people,” added Franchot.
In 2008, Maryland voters approved the expansion of legalized gambling. Since the first casinos opened, they have pumped $2.2 billion into the state’s Education Trust Fund. All that money has gone to public education.
But a Project Baltimore investigation found as that casino money poured into education, our lawmakers in Annapolis cut school funding from other places. In 2009, Maryland spent 21 percent of its General Fund budget on education. This year, that dropped to 18 percent.
“I don’t believe they (voters) were misled,” says Baltimore City State Delegate Mary Washington. “I believe it was part of the marketing for why people should vote for the legislation.”
With school systems throughout the state struggling to pay their bills, Washington also introduced legislation creating a “lockbox” where casino money would add to required state education spending, not replace it.
“It was the expectation that the revenue from gaming would add to public education,” said Washington. “I put in this legislation to secure the trust in the education trust fund. I want people to know that their vote really mattered.”
Washington’s legislation is in the House Appropriations Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee. It does not yet have a hearing date.