Sunday, September 14, 2014

State needs alternatives to gambling revenue

Posted on Nov. 28, 2012 at 12:00 a.m.

Recent editorials from Indiana newspapers:

The Indianapolis Star:

Gaining more revenue for Indiana by creating more losers from elsewhere makes neither financial nor social sense. Let’s hope state Senate President Pro Tempore David Long’s proposal to explore such a step gets no farther than the talk stage.

With Hoosier casino revenues down and competitors in place or planned in three adjoining states, Long warns of “an all-out assault on the system that Indiana has implemented, which was to take other people’s money.” His candor, at least, is refreshing.

The Fort Wayne Republican is offering no specifics at this point, but there can’t be many options for dealing with an inevitable tit for tat: Indiana sited 10 of its 13 casinos in border counties, and neighbors are doing the same.

To loosen the reins on Indiana’s casinos would amount to expansion of gambling, meaning more lost wages by Hoosiers as well as outsiders. It also would deepen the state’s dependence on a form of “voluntary taxation” that lacks a solid base, requires unseemly salesmanship and carries heavy social costs.

“Any expansion of gambling, to us, means expansion of lower-income people as well,” says Dan Gangler, spokesman for the Indiana Conference of the United Methodist Church, a leading gambling opponent. “It’s giving them false hopes and it’s an unstable form of revenue for government.”

Gaming taxes are the state’s third-largest revenue source, though they make up just 4 percent of the budget. As foes point out, taxpayers lose much of their gambling “earnings” to public assistance, since a disproportionate number of bettors are those least able to afford losing. ...

With gambling overall, the odds for true success seem anything but favorable. Lawmakers should look for alternatives rather than raising the bet.

The Herald Bulletin, Anderson:

An echo is the repetition of a sound, or the re-sounding of a previous event. And signs indicate that Echo Automotive, the “new” company that has set up shop at the Flagship Enterprise Center, is truly an “echo” of Bright Automotive.

You remember Bright? That’s the company that planned to manufacture plug-in hybrid service vans. After failing to secure a $450 million federal loan to start production, Bright folded in February. You might also recall that Bright, despite our community’s best efforts, jilted Anderson for Michigan when it came time to lay plans for research, development and production.

So, it’s only natural that local citizenry regard Echo with a jaundiced eye. The company, heretofore based in Arizona, wants to produce battery kits to refit service fleet vans to run on electricity. Echo, which has already set up shop in the space formerly occupied by Bright and employs former Bright executives, employs 12 people now, and hopes to add 10 more by March, when production is scheduled to begin.

Echo’s plans are quite modest, compared to the thousands that Bright aimed to employ.

This isn’t to say that Echo might not be a good thing for Anderson. It’s only to say that we should proceed with caution, given the community’s experience with Bright — not to mention the auto industry in general over the past few decades.

Echo very well might be a part of the growing momentum of economic development in Anderson this year. The city has announced at least 10 new employers who are committed to bringing, collectively, more than 1,000 jobs to the community. But we haven’t seen many of those jobs yet, so there is reason for caution here, too.

Thankfully, these prospective jobs would create a variety of products, some unrelated to the auto industry. While Madison County can certainly capitalize on local experience in producing auto parts, what we really need is diversification of our economic development portfolio. ...