Comptroller Peter Franchot (D), a frequent critic of Maryland’s slots program, has no interest in a special legislative session to expand it.
The former Montgomery County delegate, who is angling to run for governor in 2014, makes that abundantly clear in an op-ed that appeared Thursday on the Web site of the Baltimore Sun.
In the piece, Franchot offers “all due respect” to Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert), who are pushing a plan to add a full-fledged casino in Prince George's County and allow Las Vegas-style table games at Maryland’s five existing slots locations.
But, the comptroller writes: “I believe this represents the wrong approach to our state’s fiscal challenges and sends the wrong message to the working people of our state. Awarding tax breaks to the national gambling industry, after we have repeatedly raised taxes on Maryland families and businesses, would represent the most profound misplacement of priorities that I have seen in my 25 years in public life.”
Franchot is referring to plans that have been floated to reduce the tax rates on other Maryland casinos to compensate them for the new competition that would come with a casino in Prince George’s, most likely at National Harbor.
Franchot’s position puts him at odds with Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown (D), another leading contender for the 2014 Democratic nomination.
Brown, a former Prince George’s delegate, wrote in a letter to the Gazette newspaper last week that a casino in the county “would spur the creation of thousands of construction jobs in the short term, thousands of permanent jobs in the long term and tens of millions of dollars in economic activity for years to come.”
O’Malley is expected to make an announcement in coming days about whether he will call a special session. If it happens, lawmakers most likely will be told to return to Annapolis in early August.
Any gambling expansion would require approval by voters statewide as well as the legislature. O’Malley and others are trying to pass a plan that could appear on the November ballot.