Small rural towns lose in casino deal….

I was just reviewing Devalue Patrick’s FY 2009 state budget, which is admittedly a long way from final.  I was particularly interested in the portion of local aid represented by the gaming revenues of Devalue’s three casino proposal.  As it is, Devalue has proposed funding local aid to cities and towns, in part, from the casino revenues that have yet to even be approved – much less realized.  He is literally spending money he doesn’t have.

So I go to the state website here: http://mass.gov/bb/h1/fy2009h1…

and I find that local aid is made up of a few segments: Chapter 70 funding, additional assistance and lottery distributions.  Due to a projected shortfall of lottery revenues an additional amount equal to 15.3% of lottery distributions will be given to each town and city as a bonus from casino revenues to help make them whole.  Is it fair?

I guess that fair depends on who you are and how you look at it.  If you are Boston, Massachusetts the 15.3% gaming bonus only represents 2.1% of your total local aid package because Boston gets a lot of Chapter 70 funding and a lot of additional assistance.  But, if you are Pepperell, Massachusetts and 99% of your local aid comes in the form of lottery distributions then the 15.3% bonus amounts to 15.2% of your local aid.  So dependent on how much of your local aid comes in the form of lottery distributions will determine if the Devalue Patrick casino funding deal is good or not.  If the casino deal is dead then Boston gets pinched by 2.1% and Pepperell gets pinched by 15.2%.  OUCH.

So if the casino deal dies, the towns that get the least Chapter 70 funding and the least additional assistance get hurt the most.  Who might those towns be?  Unfortunately, it is the smallest and least commercial towns in Massachusetts that have no other tax options.  It is towns like Stow, Wilbraham, Princeton and Dunstable that currently receive no Chapter 70 funding.  It is also towns like Lancaster, Groton, Sterling and Huntington that receive no additional assistance from the state.  Worse yet, it is towns like West Stockbridge, Shelburne, Ashby and Newbury that receive neither Chapter 70 funding nor additional assistance.  Not surprisingly, the towns mentioned are heavily conservative and well outside the 128 belt.  If by chance you are Springfield, Brockton, Lynn or Chelsea it doesn’t much make a difference whether Massachusetts get casinos or not because less than 2% of your local aid will come from the gaming bonus.

So here is the deal: If Devalue Patrick gets his proposed three casino deal and they pay out as he hoped then everyone gets a piece of the pie.  If they are approved and don’t pay out – or – If Sal DiMasi puts his foot down and stops it then the smallest towns get shafted by the corresponding cut in local aid.

It is the small towns with little or no commercial tax base that will be used as the lever in Devalue Patrick’s plot to bring casinos to Massachusetts.  Should I be surprised that Devalue is willing to place additional burden on the over-taxed homeowners of those towns in an effort to bring slot machines, hookers and crime to Massachusetts?

“Massachusetts is on the move”.

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