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Revenue raiser: An economic recovery, not a casino, is what's needed

Proponents of the latest casino gambling bill say it will at last solve New Hampshire's structural revenue problem. They say the state is starved of cash and casinos finally will fill the coffers. The state's actual budget figures tell a different story.

The state budget difficulties of the last several years stemmed directly from the 2008 recession and the excruciatingly slow economic recovery that followed. In the 2006 fiscal year, New Hampshire's net cash income was $1,243,345,494. Revenue rose by $57 million over the next two years, topping out at $1,319,445,402. The next budget reflected the damage done by the recession.

Revenue in fiscal year 2009 fell to $1,181,848,902 — a drop of $137.5 million. Four years later, the state has recovered only a small portion of that loss. Revenue for fiscal year 2013 was $1,240,194,808 — only $58.3 million higher than the 2009 trough. Had state income continued to rise at the 2006-08 rate, without interruption, state revenue would have been $145 million higher in the 2013 fiscal year. That is more than the $139 million the current casino bill projects raising in 2018, the first full year of casino operation. And $25 million of the casino revenue would go to municipalities.

A recent court rejection of the Medicaid enhancement tax has created an actual revenue hole in the state budget. Casino revenue falls about $60 million a year short of the MET money. It would fix neither the MET hit nor the recession hit. Once again, casinos are not a solution. New Hampshire needs a robust national economic recovery, not the false promise of giant buildings full of slot machines.

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