"What's black and white and read all over?"

Tuesday, June 27, 2006
Posted 11:59 PM by

Rendell signs tax bill to justify slot machines

But Senate Democrats may have put the kibosh on a Republican plan to stop the payout to political friends who want to be slot machine middlemen.

Politically connected slots middlemen in Pennsylvania may still get their piece of the slots pie thanks to an amendment state Senate Democrats added to a bill to abolish the practice that passed Tuesday.Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell signed the tax "reform" bill he wanted into law today, which I'm officially redubbing the Wage Earners' Tax since it actually increases taxes on anybody working here.

As I've said previously, the new law is really an election year ploy so some legislators and Rendell can say they gave $1 billion in tax relief to Pennsylvanians while justifying jamming slot machine gambling down our throats.

In truth, the $200 tax break the average homeowner may eventually receive from the state's share of slots quarters has likely already been offset by huge increases passed this summer by their local school districts.

And as I've said, the state has nearly a $1 billion surplus this year, so why did our lawmakers feel it was necessary to give local school districts the power to tax us even more?

Once that becomes clear, be prepared for the Legislature to pass a law legalizing table games, ostensibly so they can provide even more "help" to homeowners.

At least some political friends of the lawmakers may not end up benefiting from the slots law. Maybe.

The state Senate voted 29-21 tonight to abolish a requirement that slot-machine manufacturers use in-state middlemen to sell their equipment to Pennsylvania casinos.

No other state in the nation with gambling requires it. They just let their casinos buy directly from machines manufacturers.

The measure also would end the deadlock of the politically handpicked Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board on how best to divvy up the spoils.

That's assuming this bill sees the light of day in the House. A Democraticly-penned amendment increased the state's tax on slots parlor operators - from 52 percent to 56 percent - in order to pay for gambling-related law enforcement costs.

That alone might just be enough to kill the bill, S.B. 1230, as some slots hopefuls were already balking at the idea of giving the state more than half of the house's quarters and silver dollars.

At 52 percent, Pennsylvania's tax rate on slots parlors was already "more than six times higher" than those in Atlantic City or Nevada.

Meanwhile, no one has gotten around to actually killing the portion of the slots law that lets legislators own up to 1 percent of any slots parlor.

But don't worry, House Democratic Whip Michael Veon wants an amendment to the law.

Unfortunately, his amendment would just make sure the Gaming Control Board gives his district a casino - even if none of its proposed racetracks is granted a harness racing license.

As for the control board, a group of Philadelphians plan to picket it and the Capital tomorrow. That includes Neighbors Allied for the Best Riverfront ( and ( State Rep. Paul Clymer, R-Bucks County, plans to address the group. He's the only legislator to introduce a bill to repeal the slots law.

Jethro Heiko, a member of NABR, hopes to address the control board members during a public comment portion of their meeting.

Should be slots of fun.


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