No one on the blogosphere is more disappointed about the Governor's plan to support not one, not two, but three casinos in Massachusetts, than I am. It wasn't entirely unexpected, but it was still disappointing. Furthermore, I'm not surprised at the reaction being displayed across the entire Bay State blogosphere: I haven't read one liberal or progressive blogger yet who thinks Deval's decision is the right decision, including from his most dedicated supporters. However, there was something I mentioned yesterday on my LeftAhead! podcast - and it's important to remember.
Deval Patrick may have made a poor choice, but the vision and reasons behind that choice were right. Our state desperately needs new revenues, both to fix its roads and solve this property tax/health care/public education crisis. While casinos certainly won't accomplish either on their own, they could bring in hundreds of millions over several years (though, I doubt it). Whatever the casinos bring in will be a pittance compared to our entire state budget - and certainly not worth both the social and economic costs - but nothing to sneeze at, either. Furthermore, because Speaker DiMasi has been completely resistant to both Deval's corporate loophole cuts as well as allowing towns the opportunity to have a modest meals tax, the Governor truly has been boxed into a wall.
I don't really blame the Governor for coming out with this decision. Casinos are an enticing, easy fix. Deval certainly knows that - and tried to create a very reasonable plan to compensate for it. However, there's no way this state can truly control casino operations. It's like trying to control the Earth's orbit. More than three will be built; it's just a matter of time. Either a future Governor will be elected and not be as particular as our current Governor, or one of the tribes in this state will take the time to go through the federal process - which would be a lot easier if we already had three operating casinos. Luckily, we have a democratic process in place to make sure that Deval Patrick's plan does not go through - stopping it at the legislative level. But, it's also important to remember that we're even more lucky to have a Governor who's heart - if not mind, in this case - is in the right place.