- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 21, 2004

BALTIMORE (AP) — U.S. Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest, one of Maryland’s leading Republicans, plans to testify against Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.’s slots-machine proposal this week, dealing a blow to the governor’s plan to solve the state’s fiscal crisis.

Slots opponents cheered the congressman’s decision.

“We think this is a measure of the lack of support that slots has cutting across all party lines,” W. Minor Carter, a lobbyist representing a coalition of antislots groups, told the (Baltimore) Sun.

Paul Schurick, a spokesman for Mr. Ehrlich, had little comment.

“We have thoughts that we don’t care to share publicly,” Mr. Schurick told the Sun.

Mr. Gilchrest, writing an opinion piece in the newspaper’s Sunday editions, said the future of the state “is in our hands.”

“We should not allow slots into our communities in order to permit governing to be easy and expedient just for the moment,” Mr. Gilchrest wrote.

The Maryland Senate passed a heavily amended version of Mr. Ehrlich’s bill last month, permitting up to 15,500 slot machines at six locations. Legislative analysts project it could raise more than $800 million a year in state revenues when all of the machines are operating.

The House Ways and Means Committee, which defeated the governor’s slots proposal last year, is set to hold hearings on most gambling legislation tomorrow.

The executives of Montgomery and Prince George’s counties also are expected to testify in opposition to the plan.

Mr. Ehrlich, a Republican who has vowed to veto any increase in the sales or income taxes, says the revenues from slot machines are crucial to fulfill the state’s 2002 commitment to major funding increases for public schools, known as the Thornton legislation. Without that money, Mr. Ehrlich says, he will be forced to make deep cuts to all other areas of the state budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2005.

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