LETTER: Is Sen. Miller Using Education as Trump Card To Pass Slots Bill?


On the surface, Senator Miller's recent letter on the payoffs of the state's investment in education was simply an update to constituents to let them know what they're getting for their taxpayer dollars. What concerns me, however, is the following statement: "...we must continue to invest in public education for the long term health of our state. We have made too much progress to turn back now." If Senator Miller wasn't using education as his trump card for getting his beloved slots amendment voted into the Constitution this November, then I'd say there's nothing wrong with his statement. He and his colleagues in Annapolis, however, are making a concerted effort to link the slots amendment exclusively to funding for public education, and that is a Trojan Horse against which we all must be on guard. Not unlike the legend from our history texts or the computer virus of the same name, this amendment appears harmless but in fact will wreak undisclosed havoc on our state.

Pro-slots advocates like Senator Miller are going out of their way to convince the voting public that the slots bill is solely about funding education, and they've resorted to some hardball tactics to get their message across. Maryland Secretary of State John McDonough wrote misleading ballot language describing the slots amendment as exclusively an education bill, leaving out any reference to the horse racing industry or the gambling interests that stand to benefit from its passage.

Senator Miller all but threatened the Maryland State Teacher's Association with cuts in state aid to the counties for education, defeat of a bill to aid teachers in arbitration of disputes with local school boards, and transferring the cost of teacher pensions from the state to already strapped county governments. Unfortunately, MSTA was forced to say "yes" to slots but, to their credit, they did not require county teachers unions to go along and several of them have refrained from taking sides.

If you really want to get the straight scoop from a teacher on slots, just ask your friend or neighbor who teaches at one of the local public schools. They'll tell you about the poor and lower middle class parents who can't afford to spend their discretionary income on gambling and whose children suffer when gambling takes hold in their household. They'll tell you that parents who spend money on gambling deprive their children of opportunities to engage in cultural or educational activities outside the classroom, putting them behind their peers that do. They'll tell you that children from homes and neighborhoods infested with gambling are less secure and more at risk from social ills ranging from hunger to crime. Former Maryland Attorney General Joseph Curran, Governor O'Malley's father-in-law, warned us in the mid-1990s that slots would lead to "violent crime, more crimes against property, more insurance fraud, more white collar crime, more juvenile crime, more drug- and alcohol-related crime, more domestic violence and child abuse, and more organized crime."

Don't be misled by Greeks bearing gifts. If education is as important as they claim, force them to fund it fully out of the general fund. Ask them what happened to the lottery funds that were supposed to fully fund education once and for all. Don't let them hide the fact that one out of four Marylanders will have to lose an average of $1,000 annually to slots for them to meet their funding projections. Please don't put gambling into the Maryland Constitution, forever designating our state as a gambling haven. We are better than that.

Ron Miller
Campaign Chairman, Team Ron Miller
Huntingtown, Maryland

Note: Ron Miller opposed Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller (D) in the 27th Legislative District in 2006 as the Republican candidate.

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