Busch firm in opposition to slots plan

Pa. approval is irrelevant, he tells Democratic club

July 11, 2004|By Ted Shelsby | Ted Shelsby,SUN STAFF

Maryland House Speaker Michael E. Busch told members of the New Harford Democratic Club last week that he has no intention of dropping his opposition to the governor's call for a special session of the General Assembly to act on a slot machine bill.

He told about 100 people attending the club's meeting at the Holiday Inn in Aberdeen on Wednesday night that Pennsylvania's recent passage of slots legislation does not mean that Maryland should follow suit.

Busch said he was concerned that if slots legislation is passed in Maryland, the number of machines will continue to grow as the government becomes more dependent on revenue from them.

Within eight to 10 years, he said, "every bar and restaurant could have slots."

After Pennsylvania passed legislation to allow 61,000 slots, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. intensified his call for the General Assembly to follow that state's lead.

In answer to a question from the floor, Busch said he would agree to a summer session only if the governor agreed to a referendum on slots that would allow voters to decide the issue in the November election.

He said he does not want to put Maryland in the position of West Virginia, which uses gambling as a base of its economy.

"I've been in the legislature for 18 years," he said. "Never have I heard anyone say, `Give us a health care plan like they have in West Virginia.' Never have I heard them say, `Give us a kindergarten to 12th-grade education plan like they have in West Virginia or a jobs plan like they have in West Virginia.'"

West Virginia has been criticized over its efforts to improve health care, education and employment.

Busch's opposition has proved fatal to the governor's proposed slot plans during the past two legislative sessions.

In response to another question, Busch warned parents of young people attending college next year to expect another 9 percent to 10 percent increase in tuition for state schools.

The speaker blamed the governor's legislative failures on his unwillingness to work with legislative leaders.

Busch also commented on national politics, saying he does not think the United States should be in Iraq. Despite his opposition to the war, he said, he supports the troops there.

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