By: Kent Oyler, President & CEO of Greater Louisville Inc.
We have waited long enough; the time is now for Kentucky lawmakers to take action and generate additional revenue by allowing casino gaming. GLI keeps bringing up this important policy initiative because it makes sense for business and it makes sense for Kentucky taxpayers.
Every year the Commonwealth stands idly by while $546 million in gaming tax revenue gush outward across our state lines. These are dollars that could be going to shore up the budget and fund our significant pension obligations but are instead spent in Indiana, Ohio, Missouri, Illinois, and West Virginia. These neighboring states had the foresight to keep their tax revenues within their borders while also benefiting from Kentucky cash. How short sighted are we?
Some argue that the gaming boat has sailed, but they are wrong. The numbers are still on our side and they are big. In addition to retaining the $546 million already escaping, there is potential for creation of 10,000 related new gaming related jobs. Gaming means hundreds of millions in new payroll and construction spending, as well as more tourism across the state. Expanding gaming also puts Kentucky back on top in the horse racing industry by increasing the purses at our racetracks.
It’s time for Kentucky to move forward by passing SB 144, a bi-partisan bill sponsored by Senator Morgan McGarvey and Senator Julie Raque Adams. It’s a straightforward and common sense plan that if enacted by the legislature . . .
– Puts expanded gaming on the ballot, giving every Kentuckian a chance to voice their opinion with a vote, which is the most egalitarian way to create change.
– Dedicates 90% of revenue derived from expanded gaming to paying off equal parts of our unfunded KERS and KTRS pension liabilities for ten years. This would be a constitutional mandate that these funds go directly toward reducing pension liabilities and not be diverted elsewhere.
– Puts the remaining 10% of new revenue toward larger purses to keep Kentucky’s signature horseracing industry competitive.
We all know the financial challenges Kentucky is facing and we need bold solutions. SB144 is a plan that will significantly grow our state’s economy, reduce our unfunded pension liabilities and relieve pressure on cuts proposed for other critical needs like higher education. We need the money that continues to flood across state lines to stay here and meet Kentucky’s needs. We need the economic development that casino gaming brings. And let’s not forget that getting our pensions funded is the only way we can maintain our bond credit rating. Let’s be smart Kentucky. Let’s take a step forward and get gaming on the ballot.