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Amid Kentucky Revenue Shortcomings, Expanded Gambling Re-Emerges

Two Kentucky Democrats say legalizing casino-style gambling would generate much-needed tax revenue for the state. Kentucky has had budget shortfalls in eight out of the last 14 years amid a massive pension crisis.

Gov. Matt Bevin has promised to reconvene the Republican-led legislature in order to come up with solutions to the pension crisis.

Rep. Rick Rand, a Democrat from Bedford, said that Republican leaders should look for new revenue to keep from cutting pension benefits and other state programs.

“It’s not going to correct every problem, but it is going to move us in the right direction, not only for our pensions but for important policy items like education and higher education,” Rand said.

Rand and Rep. Dennis Keene, a Democrat from Wilder, have proposed a constitutional amendment that would legalize casino gambling and dedicate tax proceeds from the initiative to the state’s ailing pension systems.

Democrats have pushed expanded gambling for years as an answer to Kentucky’s financial woes. The policy was a major plank of Gov. Steve Beshear’s reelection campaign, but it fizzled amid opposition from family values conservatives.

Ryland Barton is the Managing Editor for Collaboratives for Kentucky Public Radio, a group of public radio stations including WKMS, WFPL in Louisville, WEKU in Richmond and WKYU in Bowling Green. A native of Lexington, Ryland most recently served as the Capitol Reporter for Kentucky Public Radio. He has covered politics and state government for NPR member stations KWBU in Waco and KUT in Austin.
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