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Column

How I will vote on N.H. gambling bill, and why

As you read this, Wednesday, May 22, is history. What we did or didn’t do about expanded gambling in New Hampshire will be known.

As representatives, we have been “educated” by both sides. Numerous meetings, phone calls, letters, editorials and luncheons have been attended to. Now we must decide.

Proponents tout this as a “jobs bill.” They point to the recent poll showing a 63 percent approval rating. They demonstrate the huge negative if we don’t build while Massachusetts continues to go for gambling. All pretty good evidence.

The opponents point to the moral ills. They show the social concerns and the image of the state. They show the revenues are not reliable and the negative effects on surrounding businesses. Many voters want a more broad-based approach. All, also, good arguments.

When I ran for office I pledged to take care of what I saw as unmet needs for our citizens. In our current budget, funding for our most vulnerable was cut deeply. Funding for Children in Need of Services, the Developmentally Disabled, adequacy funding for our public schools, and support of our university system were all deeply cut.

As Representatives, we sent several bills to the Senate that would have provided much of this funding. At this moment, all of those requests have fallen on deaf ears.

As I went to meetings of citizens, (both for and against gambling), my message was the same, “I need to see the alternatives.” Here I sit tonight with gambling as the last revenue stream on the table.

So what is at stake? Without new revenue the Senate is poised to cut the budget we sent to them by $100 million or more. There will be no money for taxpayer relief in school adequacy funding. There will be no money to “jump start” the Affordable Healthcare Act. There is nothing more for UNH. We will not be able to fix the CHINS program or the Developmentally Disabled wait list of Meals on Wheels. There may in fact be less for these services.

For those who would rather see an income tax, we need only to point to the last election where a truly progressive list of candidates were elected. At the same time, nearly 57% of the voters cast their ballot to forever ban an income tax. The voters don’t want one. For those who point to New Hampshire’s image, we already run lotteries, simulcast racing and multiple gaming rooms (17 are licensed). We need to separate fact from myth.

I am not blind to the fact that all we may be able to rely upon are the license fees. I also understand that the revenue is critically needed now. I have put much consideration into all sides of this bill.

I will vote for this bill. I will vote for jobs and to support those vulnerable among us who cannot choose for themselves. I will give to those who can choose for themselves, the decision whether to gamble or not.

Jon Manley, a Democrat, is a representative of Hillsborough District 3, which includes Bennington, Greenfield and Hancock.

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