When the U.S. economy finally takes off, so will state tax revenue. New Hampshire's budget woes are not caused by a lack of taxing power. They are caused by a lack of economic growth combined with a lack of state spending restraint, which is why the rush to authorize a slot-machine casino in New Hampshire is so short-sighted.
Last week the state Senate voted 16-8 to bring a casino to New Hampshire. Support came from the usual suspects - Lou "Diamond" D'Allesandro, D-Millenium Gaming, and Chuck Morse, R-Salem, principally - and new converts. Sen. Molly Kelly, D-Keene, for example, is not what one would call a gambling enthusaist. She voted for a casino, she said, because the state really needs the money.
The state's current revenue problems, though, are more economic than structural in nature. Grafting a casino onto the state's revenue structure will not solve them. Though we are not sure how well she gets the first part, Sen. Martha Fuller Clark, D-Portsmouth, was a voice of reason last week in explaining the second.
Casino revenues, she correctly observed, are never as robust as promised, and they are always unreliable. They will be no panacea for New Hampshire's current budget problems, and the tide of other problems that washes in with them will cause trouble for this state forever after.
Though we seldom see eye to eye with Sen. Fuller-Clark, she deserves a lot of credit for refusing to be seduced by the Casino God's promise of revenue riches. The economy's temporary struggles are no justification for permanently changing the culture of New Hampshire. May the House remember that.