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Poll: slots support is sliding

Statewide support for the upcoming slots referendum has dropped since January, according to new survey numbers.

In the poll, conducted by Gonzales Research & Marketing Strategies and released Sept. 9, 49 percent of Marylanders said they would vote to allow slot machines in the November election.

In a similar Gonzales poll in January, 54 percent of voters said they supported the referendum, while 8 percent of voters remained undecided in both the January and September polls.

The poll, conducted Aug. 29 to Sept. 5, surveyed 833 registered voters and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

"There's been a little bit of a drop of support in every sub-group," said Laslo V. Boyd, a partner in the polling firm.

The slots referendum on the November ballot -- which requires an amendment to the Maryland Constitution, has slightly more support among Maryland Republicans than Democrats.

The Constitutional change would permit so-called "video lottery" licenses in Anne Arundel, Cecil, Worcester and Alleghany Counties, as well as Baltimore.

Supporters say revenue would fund school construction and improvements, while opponents say the education funding argument is false, and that slots will increase the number of gambling addicts and draw from other attractions.

State revenues falling $432 million short

Maryland's projected revenue stream was slashed by $432 million last week, as state officials proposed more cuts.

The Board of Revenue Estimates said the state will collect nearly $14.1 billion in its general fund next fiscal year, down from the roughly $14.5 billion predicted in March.

The lion's share of the plunge came from sliding sales and income tax receipts, but other dips are expected in everything from tobacco to motor fuel charges.

The general fund bankrolls nearly all of the state's operating expenses, including education, health care and salaries for state workers.

Gov. Martin O'Malley described the shortfall as "not unexpected," and said he will soon propose hundreds of millions of dollars in cuts. Comptroller Peter Franchot also said he wants to trim state spending. Neither specified where the ax should fall.

"The bright fact is that we are still growing," said state Treasurer Nancy Kopp, referring to Maryland's projected 4 percent growth rate. "Some other states are still down year over year."

Maryland faces a potential $1 billion deficit, and in March the Board of Revenue Estimates predicted a $333 million revenue shortfall.

The state will release updated revenue projections in December, at which point, Franchot said, the estimates may again be cut.

Franchot blamed the most recent projected shortfall on the soured economy and "out-of-control" state spending.

"We've got to reform state spending, and we cannot tax our way out of a bad economy," he said. "We have to, like the rest of Maryland, do some penny-pinching and kind of rein in spending."

-- Eli Segall, Capital News Service


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