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Gray machines aren't the answer to state's problems

Since politics is basically about the allocation of limited resources, it is vital that lawmakers keep the state's fiscal house in order.

Of course, balancing the budget is also of key concern to legislators. This year, lawmakers are pondering the regulation of gaming devices to help keep the state's books in balance against a projected tax revenue shortfall. While we realize that it pays to be pragmatic, we wonder if there aren't better ways to achieve a balanced budget. Relying on "gray machines" for a source of revenue seems to be a questionable method of achieving that end.

Sen. Roman Prezioso, D-Marion, says there are only so many choices that you have when your options outweigh your income. "It's just like a family budget. You either go out and get another job (source of revenue) or you raise taxes or you cut something," Prezioso says.

In addition to bringing gray machines into the genre of legalized gambling, Prezioso thinks legislators will look at increasing revenue by tapping into tobacco settlement funds and making additional increases to Public Insurance Agency premiums.

We think the state Legislature should look at all viable options before resorting to relying on funds from gambling. Gray machines could be the first step down a slippery slope to ever more gambling operations in this state.

Legislators just might have to "bite the bullet" and look into the option of cutting services.

When hard times hit, budgets are normally trimmed to reflect the new economic reality.

And while new taxes are anathema to most people, sometimes it is the only way to balance the budget.

Sen. Bill Sharpe, D-Lewis, in his 40th year in the Legislature, suspects tax shortfalls may embolden the Legislature to address a restructuring of the state's entire tax system to make it more fair.

Del. Douglas Stalnaker, R-Lewis, has another idea that might foster increased revenue. He believes reducing some business taxes might ultimately unleash more tax money.

In essence, we think all options should be explored before taking the easy way out and utilizing gambling revenue to attain the goal of a balanced budget.

Our lawmakers have some brainstorming to do in Charleston this legislative session.

Today's editorial reflects the opinion of the Exponent editorial board, which is comprised of James G. Logue, Kevin S. Courtney, Patrick M. Martin, Nora Edinger and J. Cecil Jarvis.

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