RICH JAMES: GOP bets on economy haven't paid off

2013-10-08T12:07:00Z 2013-10-08T21:19:12Z RICH JAMES: GOP bets on economy haven't paid offBy Rich James nwitimes.com
October 08, 2013 12:07 pm  • 

The way Gov. Mitch Daniels and fellow Republicans talked in early 2012, I was ready to set up a toll gate at the state line when the anti-union right-to-work bill was approved.

And I was sure I’d need to hire additional toll collectors when Gov. Mike Pence’s income-tax reduction was approved earlier this year.

I figured I was going to be on Easy Street in nothing flat. The floodgates were about to open.

Well, I’m about to cut my losses and head home. I’ll be the first to admit I was wrong.

The monthly revenue report of state tax collections for September doesn’t paint a very pretty picture – once again.

For major tax sources, revenue was 3.2 percent below forecast. And collections were 1.6 percent below those of September 2012.

And, all the while, Indiana’s unemployment rate remains woefully high.

There are a few particularly distressing numbers.

Individual income tax collections are almost 5 percent lower than a year ago.

While the tax collections indicate Hoosiers are drinking less alcohol, they also show Indiana residents are smoking a good bit more. Go figure.

The real kick in the teeth came with taxes collected from the casino boats.

Casino tax collections for last month were 12.4 percent below forecast.

And the actual casino tax collections for September were 25.8 percent below those of September 2012. That is a decline of $15 million, which isn’t exactly chump change.

There’s a lot to read between the lines when it comes to the casino numbers. And the city of Gary is at the heart of the focus.

Gary for years has sought a land-based casino along the Borman Expressway.

But Indiana’s conservative Legislature thinks a casino in full view of hundreds of thousands of passing motorists sends the wrong signal. It’s as if to suggest out-of-the-way riverboats are OK because Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn wouldn’t take much of your money.

With land-based Illinois casinos closer to reality, Indiana needs to wake up.

In terms of location, location, location, it doesn’t get much better than the Borman for a land-based casino.

And Gary has so much potentially riding on it. Gary – better yet, make that Northwest Indiana – needs a trauma center. This is the largest population pod in Indiana without such an emergency medical facility.

There is a conservative element in the Legislature that doesn’t want to help this area with anything – such as a new Cline Avenue bridge. It is that mindset that says an expanded medical complex here would have to be paid for with land-based casino revenue. So be it.

That makes a lot more sense than wagering our future on the right-to-work law.

Rich James has been writing about state and local government and politics for more than 30 years. Email him at rjames@219.com. The opinions are the writer’s.

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