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The Tentacle


February 6, 2003

Presenting Maryland's New Tax Machine

Mike Kuster

A Republican now serves as Maryland's head of state. With the recent changing of the guard, Maryland awaits the results of switching to a GOP-led State House. The most discussed change will be the introduction of slot machines in Maryland.

Governor Robert Ehrlich plans to cure the State of Maryland's budget woes by placing slot machines at four racetracks. The state will take a cut from all of the slot machines.

Sounds great! Right?

Well, what is a slot machine? It is nothing more than a mechanical tax collector. Regular Joe puts a quarter in the machine. Some percentage, let's say 60%, goes to the state.

Let's examine some examples of this form of taxation.

Joe decides he'll play $50 this week in the slots. Joe makes $15 an hour. This week, Joe pays 5% of his salary to the state through the tax machine.

Blaine decides to play $50 during the same week. Blaine makes $30 an hour. In this same week, Blaine pays 2.5% of his salary to the state through the tax machine.

Then, John decides to also play $50 during the same week. John makes $80 an hour. His contribution to the state this week was 0.94% of his salary.

This is a regressive tax on the citizens of Maryland. Joe, the individual who can least afford to throw $50 down the drain, is taxed at a higher rate than the others.

Even worse, Joe and those who earn less than he does are more likely to gamble a greater percentage of their salary. These people attempt to win the American Dream. In so doing, their taxation increases to an even greater rate than those earning a higher income.

Let's take Tom, for instance. Tom earns $5.50 an hour. He is desperate to make ends meet, and tries to make a little more money this week. By the time he leaves the race track, he's played his entire paycheck. He has now paid 54.5% of his income to the state. What, if any, money he won will have to pay the rent, food, and all necessities for his family.

Even if Tom played only $50 on the slots this week, he would have been taxed at a rate of 13.6% of his income.

Here we see that an individual at the lowest end of the pay scale will pay 14.46 times more in taxes to the state than someone making over $160,000 per year.

Of course, this is all based upon everyone betting $50 per week. Will Tom stop at $50? Will John even go gambling? How often will each play the slots?

Experience shows that Tom will play weekly or daily and that John will play rarely.

Of course, it is Tom's choice to ruin his life. It is Tom's choice to ruin the lives of his children and wife. It is Tom's choice to pay 60% of his income to the State of Maryland.

What is the cost to Maryland's taxpayers of giving Tom this choice?

Tom's family will need assistance to eat, receive medical care, put a roof over their heads, etc.

Maryland taxpayers will not receive an income tax increase from Governor Ehrlich this year. How long will it be, however, before taxes will need to be raised to care for those hurt by Governor Ehrlich's tax machine.

Slots are tax machines! This is a sneaky way of raising taxes without saying the word tax.

In discussing this issue with friends, some have said, "I don't care if they legalize slots. I won't play. So, I won't be taxed."

That's all well and good for those of us who do not gamble. Unfortunately, the majority of those who will be gambling will be least able to afford to gamble. Therefore, the burden of paying for the services our state provides will lie on the working class.

This is similar to the NIMBY phenomenon. We all agree we need more income, but don't expect me to foot the bill. Let someone else pay for all of the services our government provides.

Isn't it strange that someone whose party cries for equity in taxation would push for this imbalance in carrying the burden of paying for government?

Our society must decide what services we deem necessary for the state to provide. We must all carry the load. It should not be placed upon the few who are desperate to achieve the "American Dream" or addicted to gambling.

Others state, "I am sick of seeing all of our money going to West Virginia!"

If slots are so great, why aren't people flocking across the river to enroll their children in Jefferson County schools? Have slots helped our neighboring county? Is West Virginia raking in the bucks to fund their every whim?

No!

Slots, as proposed by the governor, do not equate to sin taxes on cigarettes or alcohol. The State of Maryland does not sell cigarettes or alcohol. Like the lottery, Maryland would be a partner in providing slots to the citizens and would take a large percentage of the profits.

Do we want to make profits by taxing the poorest of Maryland's citizens? Are we willing to watch our new taxing machines ruin the lives of innocent children, spouses, and others? Are we willing to increase the crime rate as addicts steal for money to pay for their gambling?

Who is going to fund the counseling of addicts? Maryland's mental health system is already in ruin and bankrupt. Where will the money come from?

Contact your representatives to the General Assembly and urge them to fight slots in Maryland! Contact Senator Alex Mooney and thank him for coming out against slots!

Before you know it, the governor will install a virtual tax machine on all of our PC's. Trust me, people play games all day long at home and work. That ought to bring in the bucks.



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