Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear

Crawford Ifland

Beshear: Gaming Could Help KY Budget Woes

Wants legislature to approve a constitutional amendment that would be put on ballot.

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear says allowing Kentuckians to take part in casino-style gambling could generate needed money for the state budget.

The second-term Democrat said Jan. 17 that the state’s budget woes show a need to legalize more kinds of gambling, allowing residents to wager on more than horse races.

“It’s a budget that—to be candid—is inadequate for the needs of our people,” Beshear said of the budget for the biennium that calls for 8.4% cuts in most areas of state government during fiscal 2013 beginning July 1, 2012.

Noting that spending was cut by $1.3 billion over the previous years in order to balance the state budget, the governor said the figure would grow to $1.6 billion under his budget proposal.

While many of those reductions were needed “because state government had become bloated … and some people had forgotten the sanctity of the taxpayer’s money,” Beshear said, “we’re at a point where drastic cuts will do more damage to Kentucky’s long-term future than realized savings will help.”

Beshear said the solution to the budget problem could be achieved by legislative action to reform the state’s tax system and by expanded gaming. He urged lawmakers, who will now consider the proposed budget, to approve a constitutional amendment that would be put on the ballot for voters to ratify or reject.

Beshear cited a study by gambling proponents that suggested expanding gambling at horse tracks alone would generate one-time license fees of $266 million and $377 million annually for the General Fund. The study also calculated that Kentuckians are spending $451 million a year on casino gambling in other states.

“You’ve heard a lot of arguments about why gaming is or isn’t right for Kentucky,” Beshear said, “but you haven’t heard a single argument as to why Kentuckians shouldn’t be allowed to vote on this proposal… Gaming isn’t an end unto itself. It’s a mechanism to keep our Kentucky money at home.”

The governor said those estimates are “conservative” and that he did not include any of those projections in his budget proposal.

“It is time to let our people decide whether they want that Kentucky money to continue to flow across our borders or to stay here at home,” Beshear said.