Senate Might Bet on Tax Cuts with Slots to Beat Veto

Article excerpt

ANNAPOLIS - Maryland Senate leaders are looking at a plan to link a proposed 10 percent income-tax cut with a bill allowing slot machines at state racetracks, a move that could make slots immune to the governor's threatened veto.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening has said emphatically that he will veto any gambling legislation that crosses his desk, including casinos, slot machines and a proposed extension of the legality of Prince George's County charity casinos.

But lawmakers have questioned Mr. Glendening's ability to pay for a 10 percent tax cut, which would cost almost $500 million over three years, while making no deep cuts in his budget. Revenues from slot machines could help fund that tax cut and win crucial votes for the gambling proposal.

"You've got two popular issues," said Senate President Mike Miller, Prince George's County Democrat. "When you combine them . . ."

A veto can be overriden by a three-fifths vote of the General Assembly - 29 of the 47 senators and 85 of the 141 delegates. Senate leaders think that linking slots and a tax cut could draw support of 29 senators or more.

"The need to raise funds to give tax relief and carry out a very ambitious plan that is before us this session - it's probably enough to change some reluctant minds," said Senate Majority Leader Clarence Blount, Baltimore Democrat. "If [slots are] what it takes, so be it."

Both Mr. Miller and Mr. Blount said no slots-and-tax-cut bill is on the table, but both said the idea is gaining strength.

That led House Speaker Casper Taylor, Allegany County Democrat, to open the door to slots, after insisting that he would not waste the House's time on a bill that the governor promised to veto.

A veto-proof majority "is the most powerful message one body can send to another body," Mr. Taylor said. …