Question 7 on the Maryland ballot has become the most hotly contested issue in the region with tens of millions of dollars poured into the effort from competing interests in the gambling industry. It is an interesting issue to follow because support does not fall on party lines. About half of Democrats and about half of Republicans support it. About half of Democrats and about half of Republicans oppose it. Since the parties are unable to take a clear stand, individuals have the freedom to follow their conscience without fear of reprisal and retribution from their political parties.
That is why Democratic Delegate Heather Mizeur can oppose Democratic Governor Martin O’Malley on this issue. There are good arguments on both sides of Question 7. The Washington Post outlines good reasons for its support and the Baltimore Sun outlines good reasons in its opposition. However, in my opinion, the best argument comes from Delegate Heather Mizeur’s op-ed in the Washington Post arguing for a “no” vote on Question 7.
Rather than simply criticize and point out the flaws in Question 7, she addresses the concerns for which Question 7 is designed to fix and outlines a list of alternative policy proposals that would be more effective at addressing those concerns in a timely manner. Her policy proposals are strong.
Supporters of Question 7 claim that adding a casino in Prince George’s County and expanding table games would create thousands of permanent jobs and provide tax revenue for schools. Job creation and public school funding are certainly essential goals for progress.
Yet, Question 7 fails on both counts. The future of jobs lies in the knowledge sector. These are the kinds of jobs that will pay dividends and will grow rapidly in the next few decades. Cutting taxes on small businesses and closing the loopholes that have allowed many big businesses in Maryland to skip paying Maryland taxes is a good first step to level the playing field and encourage small business growth.
Instead of giving handouts to the casino industry in hopes that the casinos can deliver on their promises, Maryland needs to invest in its transportation infrastructure. The Purple Line needs to be built. Rail needs to be expanded. More bus service needs to be offered. Roads must be improved. Even as more and more people are teleworking and starting up home-based businesses, transportation will become even more important as technology has allowed us to multitask. Losing two hours in traffic equates to two hours of productivity lost and is intolerable for a growing number of working professionals in the knowledge sector.
Finally, Delegate Mizeur suggests that Maryland engage in public-private partnerships to finance school construction. Maryland schools are #1 in the nation, but will not be #1 for long if they do not continue to innovate in all areas of performance. Since schools yield positive externalities that benefit society as a whole, it makes sense to get the business community and organized labor involved in the process of school financing.
I believe the ideas proposed by Delegate Heather Mizeur are better for Maryland jobs and schools. For these reasons, a “no” vote on Question 7 is the best course of action.