When things go quiet in Austin, it's always about the moneyCarlos Guerra, San Antonio Express-News
May 4, 2004
In Austin, top political leaders came under fire Monday for their proposals to change the tax system to pay for killing Robin Hood.
Some barbs came after the Legislative Budget Board released its analysis of the new tax plan that shows that the poor would be hit hardest. Under the latest plan, families that earn between $15,398 and $28,652 would pay 5.59 percent more taxes in 2006 than they do now and 5.67 percent more in 2007.
But families with earnings greater than $181,711 would get tax breaks of 3.09 percent and 4.13 percent during the same years.
Another attack came from a respected Republican, Royal Masset, the party's ex-political director, who says he "loves gambling."
But in the Quorum Report, a political newsletter, Masset sharply condemned GOP leaders for advocating that 40,000 slot machines be placed in Texas.
The Texas GOP's platform opposes gambling, he noted, and "any further legalization ... relating to any type of gambling."
What's more, he wrote, for slots to generate the $1.5 billion promised after giving tracks 40 percent of the take, "the average family of four will lose $459.12 every year."
On another front, an analysis of gambling-related political contributions will be released today. But Texans for Public Justice head Craig McDonald said that it might explain why the slots-for-tots idea has encountered little opposition.
TPJ's analysis, McDonald says, shows that contributions from gambling interests have been large and part of a long-term strategy.
"They have been trying to curry favor for quite some time to protect their operations," he said. "Track owners have been laying bets on Texas politicians because they aren't gamblers themselves."
Texas Ethics Commission filings show that gambling concerns have given $4,119,782 to candidates since 2000, McDonald says, with track owners giving $3.1 million, Indian tribes $689,000, horse and dog trade groups $261,000 and slot machine manufacturers $71,000.
"With these contributions they increased their odds of hitting the jackpot," he said, "so when the chance came to expand (gambling), they were in the right place."
Recipients of the gambling money are from both parties and include several whom lost.
The biggest recipient is Gov. Rick Perry, who has received $572,175 since 2000, while the state GOP got another $98,200.
Former and current Comptrollers John Sharp and Carole Keeton Strayhorn followed by taking $358,505 and $349,513, respectively.
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst took $246,925 and Attorney General Greg Abbot got $130,000. And though they lost, former state Rep. John Shields received $112,325 and gubernatorial candidate Tony Sanchez accepted $108,150. Sen. Jeff Wentworth, who beat Shields, took $57,875 in gambling money and State Rep. Elizabeth Jones got $51,250, more than Speaker Tom Craddick's $46,950.
The owners of Retama Park in San Antonio led the contributors by giving $1,717,228, followed by owners of Gulf Greyhound Park in La Marque ($460,473), Corpus Christi Greyhound Race Track ($320,676) and Maxxim, Inc. of Houston ($290,623), owner of Sam Houston Race Park, Valley Race Park and now vying for a track license in Laredo. The other applicant for that license is the LRP Group, whose owners have given politicos $275,457.
McDonald's point is a valid one: There are about 4.1 million explanations for the anemic opposition that more gambling is getting.