Monday, September 15, 2014

5 Pinocchios for Jim Mathias

5 Pinocchios for Jim Mathias

“Capitulating verses Negotiating”

by Delegate Mike McDermott

It is not unusual for a politician to stand up and take credit for something they did not do. I have talked about the “posers” with those big checks before; but this week, Jim Mathias crossed a line when he stood up and took credit for the return of millions in local slot revenues  to Worcester County when nothing could be further from the truth.

When slots were first authorized in Maryland, Mathias was a delegate. He was elected and quoted on the record that he would not support or vote for slots. Yet, during the 2007 Special Session, he changed his mind, and his vote became the deciding vote when he voted for gambling in Maryland. The bill required Worcester County to fork over a million dollars a year to Baltimore City and another cool million bucks to Prince Georges County from the local government proceeds that would have stayed on the shore. Search if you like, but you will find no attempt to strike this payoff from the bill. (This has cost the lower shore millions of dollars in lost revenue since it passed).

When Mathias got back home, this pay off was soon discovered by local leaders and brought up in the press. When he was questioned about it, he claimed he did not know it was in the bill.

I’m not buying it.  After all, this bill was passed in a Special Session and was the sole piece of legislation they needed to consider. It should have been fought and eliminated; particularly if you were willing to cast the deciding 71st vote for a bill that would impact your jurisdiction significantly.

For several years, Worcester County and Ocean Downs Casino have been paying off Baltimore City and Prince Georges County.  All of that money could (and should) have been utilized for local spending. When I was elected in 2010, I was keenly aware of this wealth transfer and I looked for a mechanism to bring it back home where it belonged.

That opportunity presented itself in 2012 during our  2nd Special Session when the expansion of gaming was being sought. The issue was no longer about whether or not we would have gambling, rather it was about allowing a 6th casino to be built in Prince Georges County at National Harbor.  Gambling was no longer the issue.

This bill originated in the Senate and once again, I noticed that the payoffs to Baltimore City and Prince Georges County were still embedded in the legislation. There was no attempt by Mathias to remove these provisions from the bill.

When the bill arrived in the House, the Democrats were hunting for insurance votes to pass the bill.  I took advantage of the situation and spoke to the leader on the bill about the possibility of my supporting it. My demand was straightforward: return the local impact money to the citizens where the casinos are located. Depending on revenues, this could amount to $2 million each year that would remain on the lower shore.

To our benefit, they agreed to amend the bill and cut out the funding for Baltimore City and Prince Georges County as soon as Baltimore’s casino was open for business. In turn, I cast a deciding vote for the National Harbor expansion. The amendment was introduced by Delegate Dave Rudolph (D-Cecil) whose county also benefited directly from these local impact grants staying on the Upper Shore in Cecil County.

I could not help but see the irony of these two separate votes from two Delegates representing the same area:

  • Mathias casts the deciding vote that brings gambling to Maryland, establishes a casino in Ocean City’s backyard, and agrees to give Baltimore City and Prince Georges County $2 million of our money every year.

  • I cast the deciding vote that expands gambling to Prince George County alone and only after seeing the bill amended to strip Baltimore City and Prince Georges County from receiving one dime of our local impact money (returning $2 million to the Eastern Shore).

In a press release this past week, Mathias earned himself 5 Pinocchio's when he took credit “for amending the legislation passed in 2012” which returned the money to Worcester County. This represents a complete and utter falsehood.
The reporter took his word for it.  I do not believe the voters will be as trusting come November.

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