Sen. Jane Earll Proposes to Use Local Share from Casino Table Games for Community College
State Senator Jane Earll will meet with the State House delegation from Erie County on October 21st, 2009 to discussed about her proposal to fund a community college with a portion of the revenue coming from casino table games. But some House members are not in favor of Earll's plan or are waiting until they hear Earll's proposal themselves.
Senator Earll (Fairview Township, Republican-49th District) plan an amendment into a Senate casino table games proposal that would utilize a proposed two percent local share from gross casino table games earnings to establish and maintain the community college in Erie County. Building a community college has been on the regional agenda for quite some time but the cost of building one has been a major roadblock.
Earll is trying to reach a general consensus with the state legislators on using the local portion from the games for a community college. That is not the only level where legislators are trying to get approval on details of the casino table games proposal.
Legislative officials from the Senate and the House, together with Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, have yet to agree on a main point of contention in a casino table games law-how high to place the state's tax rate on the casino games winnings.
Many seem to agree on a license fee of $15 million from each slot machine facility in Pennsylvania that would want to offer casino table games like craps and others. But legislators disagree on other details like the tax rate and whether to allocate part of the tax gaming revenue for the counties and municipalities that host the gaming facilities. Sen. Earll hopes to reach a general consensus with the House on the local share.
But that may not be an easy goal either. State Representative Patrick Harkins of Erie, (Democrat-1st District) said that he has heard nothing of Sen. Earll except from the representatives of the Erie Regional Chamber and Growth Partnership.
Rethink Erie, a collaboration of business, philanthropic, government and economic development interested launched by the Regional Chamber to help study the community college's need, supports the proposal of using a local share of casino table games revenue for the community college.
Harkins said that he is not against to the idea of a community college but he does not know if there would be enough money to support it. Harkins said that the original slot-machine casino bill was made for property tax reduction, suggesting that some of the money from the casino table games could be utilized for the same goal.
But Harkins said that he is willing to hear out Earll. State Representative John Evans of Sadsbury Township (Republican-5th District) said that Earll's proposal is interesting but it may not be a good time to have a discussion on the issue because of the idea of a local gaming share is not yet final in Harrisburg.
He said that the idea for $200 million in casino table games revenue and fees this year was to solve the budget deficit. The state budget has already been approved but the casino table games bill is the missing piece of the puzzle.
David M. Bedingfield