Gambling is the only game in town when Republican Party principles are ignored

In the old days before the Internet, before public policy think tanks, before anyone paid attention to policy successes in other states, politicians could say things like this and get away with it:

‘It is the only game in town right now,’ said Senate Minority Leader Frank Watson, R-Greenville.

Actually, it’s the only game in town because of failed leadership. Both state Senator Watson and House Minority Leader Tom Cross have now been at the helm of their respective caucuses for almost five years. That’s not a small amount of time.

Much could’ve been done during that half-a-decade to advance solutions based on Republican Party principles had there been any desire on their part to do so. Instead, it can be surmised that their only goal in life is to secure a capital plan so those profiting will ante up to the Republican caucus campaign accounts. This so Sen. Watson and Rep. Cross can hope to win back a couple of seats.

After all, in their minds it is still the 1990s and all one need do to win a campaign is fill voters’ mail boxes with literature in the days just before an election. No doubt those mailers will be complaining about how the Democrats bicker and fail to pass capital bills faster.

We’ve noted before, the irony of the fact that the Heartland Institute, the nation’s premier state issues think tank, is based in Chicago. A couple years ago they published a booklet called “10 Principles of State Fiscal Policy.” In it, they outline some of the most basic principles that should guide legislative thinking and action.

It should go without saying that Republican legislative thought and action should then impact the public mind. If voters don’t know why they should prefer to vote for Republicans, they won’t. A milquetoast watered-down Democrat-type agenda hardly differentiates Rs from Ds in the mind of a busy population. Illinois has long been a proving ground for the notion that if both political party’s agendas look the same, voters will support the real thing. In our case, the Democrats.

University of Illinois professor John W. Kindt has a few good reasons that gambling shouldn’t be the only game in town. Here are a few of them:

“Any legislator who says he doesn’t see the downside [of casino gambling] hasn’t done his homework.”

“Gambling has a zero-sum economic effect in its market and, like legalizing cocaine, the socio-economic costs of legalizing gambling overwhelm the benefits.”

“Every video [slot] gambling machine takes $60,000 out of the consumer economy.””When the money is not spent on cars and refrigerators and is instead dropped into a slot machine, it leaves the economy.”

“A shrinking economy means lost sales and lost jobs.”

“$60,000 spent in a consumer economy multiplies by re-spending into $180,000.”

“The real loss by gambling is $180,000 to the consumer economy for each slot machine.”

“[State-sponsored gambling] produces no product, no new wealth, and so it makes no genuine contribution to economic development.”

What follows is a summation of the Heartland Institute’s “10 Principles of State Fiscal Policy.” These principles should be defining the Republican contribution to the “game” in Springfield.

Introduction: Why Do We Need Principles of State Fiscal Policy?

Sound fiscal principles promote economic growth, protect citizens from uncertainty and excessive taxation, and help lawmakers deal with tough economic times.

1. Above all else: Keep taxes low

The evidence is clear and has been for many years: High taxes hinder economic growth and prosperity. High Taxes Cause Slower Economic Growth. Cutting Taxes Spurs Economic Growth.

2. Don’t penalize earnings and investment

Taxes on earnings and investment income are particularly harmful to economic growth.

3. Avoid “sin” taxes

Taxes on specific goods and services are often unfair, unreliable, and regressive.

4. Create a transparent and accountable budget

Key elements of a transparent and accountable budget process include the following:

  • Adopt a meaningful tax and spending limit to frame the budget debate
  • Enact a non-partisan revenue forecast process to project budget revenue
  • Utilize performance-based budgeting to make “build or buy” decisions
  • Utilize independent and comprehensive performance audits with results reported directly to the public. (Translation: PROVIDE REAL OVERSIGHT!)

5. Privatize public services

Privatization is a proven way to reduce government spending while preserving or improving the quality of core public services.

6. Avoid corporate welfare

Subsidies to corporations and selective tax abatement are questionable politics and bad economics.

7. Cap taxes and expenditures

A tax and expenditure limitation (TEL) protects elected officials from public pressure to spend surplus tax revenues during good economic times. (Note: click here to learn more.)

8. Fund students, not schools

States and cities that have experimented with school choice have seen gains in academic achievement.

9. Reform Medicaid programs

Spending on Medicaid can be brought under control without lowering the quality of care received by Medicaid patients.

10. Protect state employees from politics

State and local governments should be prohibited from deducting funds used for political purposes from the paychecks of public workers.