Mario Ratzki Reports from Concord: May 2013

Voting for the casino bill was hard.

By Mario Ratzki, NH House Representative

The recent late frost hit my grapevines hard. The leaves and the buds were 90% to 100% burned. Not unlike some of my most dedicated supporters, incensed by my support of SB 152, the casino bill. I voted to talk about it and make it better, not to kill it. My “No” vote was a vote against killing the bill.

It got killed today in the House, 199 to 163. I just got out of session, disappointed at the way this has played out.

Voting for the casino bill was not an easy decision. I am well aware of the downsides associated with gambling, and no bill is perfect. But many in the super committee had fashioned a series of amendments (omnibus amendment) that made this bill better. Included were funds dedicated to help with gambling addiction, which is something we will still have to deal with, with a casino at our border in Massachusetts.

There was a grand design at play here: the House would accept SB 152 and the Senate would accept our road toll and cigarette tax. This would have gone a long way in propelling the state forward, bringing it to a place where we could finally plan and figure out a way to let the towns keep more of their money, their property taxes.

That was the reason I voted for the gas tax and almost antagonized everyone who drives a truck or has a business which uses gas and diesel. I thought people generous in their muted response; of course, I did not get any high-fives or bear hugs for voting to raise the gas tax. But the interesting part is that, almost invariably, the next question was: “What about the casino?”

I have said I am not against gambling. This is the state of New Hampshire, where people can decide whether to gamble or not. It seems to me that many would like to do so, and do it in New Hampshire rather than Massachusetts.

But it is not to be. The Senate has already pulled the road toll out of the budget, and the cigarette tax increase is, or will be, out as well. Unless the economy booms, the state will be facing the same devastating cuts and the same downshifting of costs to the towns that the last legislature gave us.

If I sound a little discouraged, it is because I am.

Other bills passed: SB 126, the Dealers' Bill of Rights , protecting our car and equipment dealers from manufacturers' expensive mandates. And of course, the Loon bill, SB 89 which would phase out lead sinkers. I am happy to say I voted Yes to both of these.

As for my vines, they seem to be recouping, although my grape production took a big hit. I can be reached at 735-5440 or at MarioRatzki@nullgmail.com.