Gaming compacts just what doctor ordered for broken budget2 min read

Editorial Board

This week, La Voz continues an ongoing series in which we endorse student positions on key votes included in California’s upcoming Feb. 5 presidential primary ballot.

Earlier this month, the citizens of California were given the news that their state was suffering from a whopping budget deficit of approximately $14 billion. As a means of comparison, this amount is approximately equal to the gross domestic products of more than one third of the world’s economies, or all of the money that is made by everyone in Iceland and Cyprus in one year combined.

Not surprisingly, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has declared California to be in a state of fiscal emergency, and has proposed a plan that would cut funding to programs, including community college education, by 10 percent.

Fortunately, on Feb. 5 California voters will be given the opportunity to significantly alleviate their state’s budget crisis by voting “yes” on Propositions 94 – 97. These four propositions are referendums on agreements previously reached between the Pechanga, Morongo, Sycuan and Agua Caliente Native American tribes and the government of California regarding an expansion of the tribes’ casino operations and tax payments to the state. All four tribes strongly support the propositions.

The benefits of these agreements are clear, and are particularly compelling given California’s current predicament. Under the agreements, the four tribes would be able to expand the aggregate number of slot machines they operate by 28 percent, yielding for each tribe a significant increase in revenue.

More importantly, the agreements change the way the four tribes pay their taxes. Not only would the revenues that the tribes provide to the state balloon, but those revenues would also become far more accessible and equitably distributed.

The tribes would increase their payments into California’s Revenue Sharing Trust Fund (a sort of welfare fund for smaller tribes that don’t operate casinos) and, for the first time, make payments in California’s General Fund (the fund used by the state to amortize the majority of its programs, such as education, law enforcement and social services).

The California Legislative Analyst’s Office estimates that “over the longer run, the net annual increase (in payments to the state) could be in the low to mid hundreds of millions of dollars, lasting until 2030.” And, the benefits to the private sector (through increased tribal spending) would be substantial, as well.

Gambling, inevitably, is accompanied by a myriad of social problems ranging from addiction to organized crime. The strength of these propositions is that they address such concerns by requiring the tribes to negotiate compensation with surrounding communities for any increased public welfare costs they incur. For the sake of all California’s citizens, both indigenous and non-native, vote yes on Propositions 94 – 97.