Kentucky lawmakers are once again pushing for gambling expansion in the state to avert the possibility of a pension crisis.
Believing that casinos are the solution to plug the state budget hole – which legislators pegged at around $30 billion to $60 billion – Rep. Jerry Miller mulls on pre-filing a casino gambling bill in time for next year’s General Assembly. He estimated that the state could earn $1 billion a year from casinos.
He, together with Sen. Morgan McGarvey, will make sure that a casino bill will be submitted before the year end.
“Pension reform is going to reduce that billion by some number,” Miller said. “We don’t know what yet. But it’s clear we need a lot of money.”
But even before Miller could file their bill, Democratic Reps. Dennis Keene and Rick Rand had already pre-filed a similar measure.
Keene said the lawmakers aren’t in favor of a tax hike to address the budget shortfall
“There’s no other alternative revenue streams being considered,” Keene said.
Sen. Julian Carroll, on the other hand, has proposed legalizing sports betting in the state. He filed a bill that will allow horseracing tracks or off-track wagering facilities to offer sports betting.
“The state has a moral and legal obligation to fund state pensions,” Carroll said in a statement. “Reducing the benefits of thousands of hard-working public servants is not an option.”
It remains to be seen whether either of these proposals will move forward, especially when Gov. Matt Bevin leads the gambling opponents.
Earlier this month, Bevin told WHAS Radio’s Leland Conway Show that the societal cost of gambling weighs heavier than the benefits it could give to the cash-strapped state.
Miller, however, believes that gambling is the best option to fix the pension problem.
“Sometimes as a legislator, I have to do what’s best for Kentucky,” he said. “And I think this is best for Kentucky.”