Steinberg criticizes move expanding lottery

September 04, 1993|By John W. Frece | John W. Frece,Staff Writer

Seeking to distance himself from the Schaefer administration he was twice elected to serve, Lt. Gov. Melvin A. Steinberg yesterday criticized the state's decision to buy vending machines that will dispense instant lottery tickets.

Mr. Steinberg, who is running for governor and eager to draw a distinction between himself and Gov. William Donald Schaefer, said the state has become too dependent on gambling revenues. And he accused the administration of raising money through expedient means that could have harmful future effects.

"We have a lame-duck administration that is not being sensitive to long-term impacts on our state," the 59-year-old Democrat said. His criticism came two days after the Board of Public Works, chaired by the governor, approved a contract to buy 300 instant ticket vending machines. The machines are to be installed in supermarkets, convenience stores and other locations.

Mr. Steinberg said if he were elected governor, he would get rid of the instant ticket machines and the lottery's new electronic numbers game, keno, as well.

"It is very poor fiscal management to place heavy dependence on gambling revenue on a state that is not basically a tourist state," he said. "These are mainly our people playing it."

But when pressed for what he would do to replace the estimated $100 million a year keno is projected to bring in or the $6 million a year in extra revenue from the vending machines, he offered few specifics. Rather, he said that more emphasis must be placed on efficiency in government and improving the economy to create jobs.

"This is the first I've heard of it," Page W. Boinest, Mr. Schaefer's press secretary, said of Mr. Steinberg's opposition. She noted that the issue of instant lottery ticket machines has been publicly discussed three separate times, beginning in July, but that the lieutenant governor -- whose office is across the hall from Mr. Schaefer's -- had never before spoken up.

"That kind of criticism is not really constructive two days after the vote," Ms. Boinest said. Mr. Schaefer, in voting Wednesday to buy the vending machines, said he did so because there was no alternative source of revenue short of raising taxes.

This is not the first time Mr. Steinberg has attempted to elevate his public profile at the expense of Mr. Schaefer, with whom he ran for statewide office in 1986 and 1990 and with whom he shared numerous legislative successes during their first years together. But all of that soured in 1991, when Mr. Steinberg refused to push the $800 million tax increase Mr. Schaefer's commission on taxes had recommended.

Since then, the lieutenant governor has been stripped of some of his staff and virtually all his official duties, including the job of overseeing the administration's legislative agenda.

Given his relationship with the governor, Mr. Steinberg said it would have done no good for him to express his opposition to the lottery machines in advance.

Instead, his office merely issued a rare press release yesterday stating Mr. Steinberg's position.

With the Democratic primary only a year away, the lieutenant governor served notice that his office may be issuing more press releases critical of administration actions with which he disagrees.

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