Voters across the state will decide two ballot questions in the November election, both of which deserve their support.
The more controversial is Question 2, which decides whether to approve gambling on sports in the state. The most powerful argument in favor is that the three states surrounding Maryland as well as the District of Columbia have already approved sports betting, and it makes sense for Maryland to do likewise.
We realize this argument may remind some readers of a question their mother may have asked them, when they argued for permission to do something because “all my friends are doing it.” Mom would ask: “If your friends all jumped off a bridge, would you do it too?”
She was expecting and usually got a reluctant “no.” Mom’s skepticism was usually spot on, but in this case, the right answer to Question 2 is “yes,” and voting for the question.
It is the right answer because if Maryland holds out against sports gambling, residents of the Old Line State will continue to cross the state line and spend their money in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware and the District. If people want to lose money gambling, they should lose money here at home, we say.
As might be expected, sports betting is being framed by its supporters as a vehicle for raising money for schools. The text of the question asks if the voter is for sports betting: “for the primary purpose of raising revenue for education?”
State sponsored gambling is almost always pitched as a way to raise money for schools, as was the issue of casino gambling a decade ago. But in reality, the benefit to schools will be marginal at best.
Look at the numbers: Proponents say sports betting will yield annual tax revenue of about $18 million. That is not nothing, but Maryland currently provides $6.5 billion a year for schools, and local governments provide another $6.5 billion.
So, if the state actually does realize $18 million in tax revenue from sports betting, it would be less than 0.3 percent of the state share of education funding. That is almost a rounding error.
It is disingenuous to pitch the campaign for gambling as a big benefit to our schools. However, we do know that a significant number of Marylanders enjoy betting on sports, and right now they must either go to other states or illegally patronize local bookies.
Taking that money out of the hands of other states or out of the hands of criminals makes voting For Question 2 worthwhile.
Question 1 is of interest primarily to those people who are students of state government.
Maryland has a strong-executive constitution, adopted in 1916, under which the governor proposes an annual operating budget, and the state Legislature can cut spending but not move money around. It is the only state in the union in which the governor has such vast power over spending.
This amendment to the constitution would allow the Legislature to redirect money in the proposed budget — essentially cutting some programs to add funding to others — as long as the overall budget does not increase.
The governor would have a line-item veto to delete any spending increase of which he/she disapproves. The Legislature can only override a veto with a three-fifths majority in both the House of Delegates and Senate.
The current system results in the Legislature cutting some spending and then begging the governor to add spending to another program. It invests too much power in the governor. Question 1 would realign the power balance between the two branches of government, though it would continue to tilt toward the governor. We urge a vote For Question 1.