Bevin: Legalizing pot and casinos not pension solutions

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CADIZ, Ky. (KT) -  Gov. Matt Bevin repeated and expanded on his opposition to legalizing recreational marijuana and expanded gaming during a Wednesday radio interview.


The Republican governor, speaking on WKDZ Radio in Cadiz, said those who support legalizing pot and casinos, to pay down the unfunded liability of the public pension plans need math lessons.


“They are just not even close,” he said.  “Anybody proposing those is either intentionally or unintentionally unaware of the math.”


Bevin said supporters of legalizing marijuana say it would generate $100 million per year in revenue to the state, while the pension system has about $60 billion in unfunded liability. 


“That means that everybody in Kentucky would need to smoke pot for the next 600 years,” he said.  “No one is allowed to retire in the next 600 years and we’re not allowed to accrue any more interest or any more liability.  In 600 years of pot smoking, if we did indeed dedicate 100 percent of the money, then we would have enough money to fund what we owe in 2019.”


Bevin said looking at Colorado, the first state to legalize recreational marijuana, there are societal costs as well. 

“Look at the homelessness, look at the increases of emergency room use.  Look at the problems they have with law enforcement in bordering states.  Look at the amount of disease and things that have spiked up as a result of people who are coming because they can smoke pot legally.”


He said there are problems with expanded gaming as well.  “Every night, somewhere in America, somebody takes their life in a casino, because they’ve wasted the last semblance of dignity and hope that they had.  Families are ruined, lives are ruined.  There is a societal cost, and there is no political appetite for this in Kentucky.”


Even if there were no negatives with casino gambling, Bevin said the math doesn’t work there either.


“The idea that we could make maybe $200 million a year with casino gambling taxes, means there are billions being spent that might better be spent somewhere else,” Bevin said. “If we all wanted to gamble and smoke pot at the same time, it would still be 200 years, just to earn the money we already owe today.  These are not serious solutions.”


Bevin said the only way to get out of the pension hole is to have more people living in Kentucky paying taxes. 

“So we want as competitive a tax environment as possible, and we want this place to be as high-quality as possible, from an infrastructure standpoint, an education standpoint, a quality of life standpoint, a low energy cost standpoint,” he said.  “If we can compete on these fronts, then we can attract more people to move here.”


His Democratic opponent in November, Attorney General Andy Beshear, has often said he supports expanded gaming.  During a candidate profile before the May Democratic primary, Beshear said,” Kentucky can’t afford to fall behind our neighboring states who are moving forward with the rest of the country on expanded gaming. We lose out on hundreds of millions of dollars a year. As governor, I will work to legalize sports betting, casinos, fantasy sports and prepare for online poker, and use the revenue from these activities as a dedicated funding stream for our public pension system.”


Bill Miller, president and CEO of the American Gaming Association, took issue with Bevin's statements calling them "patently false and irresponsible."

 “Our industry commits hundreds of millions of dollars a year to address the very serious issue of problem gambling, ensuring that patrons have the tools they need to engage in our offerings in a responsible manner," he said.. "From extensive responsible gaming training programs for our employees and proactive education for our consumers, to financial support for programs that ensure people who need help get it, our industry’s commitment is very clear.”

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