Symington says plan to lease lottery is dead

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House Speaker Gaye Symington says Governor Jim Douglas’s plan to lease the state lottery is dead.

Symington says she opposes the plan because she feels it’s a mistake for the state to rely more heavily on gambling revenue.

VPRs Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) This has not been a good week for the governor’s plan to lease the Vermont Lottery.

First, the Senate voted unanimously to require legislative approval for the plan and backers of the Senate bill said the legislation was also a clear rejection of Douglas’s idea.

Douglas has proposed leasing the lottery to a private company. Under the deal, the state would receive an up front fee of $50 million and the company would guarantee the state’s current annual payment of roughly $22 million to the Education Fund.

The governor wants to allocate $25 million of the one time money to lower the statewide education property tax and he wants to use the other half for school construction projects.

House Speaker Gaye Symington says there’s no chance that the House will support the idea.

Symington says Wall Street brokers have testified that the governor’s projection of a one time $50 million payment is overly optimistic in what is now a challenging economic climate.

Speaking on VPR’s Vermont Edition, Symington said she opposes the plan because it will lead to expanded gambling in the state:

(Symington) "The only reason they would pay us that is if they were going to increase the revenues from the lottery which is to say that they would make sure that Vermonters lose even more money from the lottery and that just strikes legislators as a bad idea."

(Kinzel) Symington agrees with Douglas that it’s important for the Legislature to take steps to lower property tax burdens.

That’s why she supports his plan to eliminate the so called 40% capital gains exemption – a change that could generate as much as $20 million a year – but they have different ideas on how to spend the money.

Douglas wants to lower income tax rates for middle and upper income Vermonters. Symington wants to target a big chunk of the money to lower property taxes:

(Symington) "I hear a lot more about property taxes than I do income taxes I’m not looking to increase the income tax per se but I don’t think that income tax relief particularly in middle and upper brackets is where Vermonters are calling for relief."

(Kinzel) Symington says she wants to amend the governor’s capital gains tax plan to exempt investments in Vermont businesses from the new higher tax rates.

For VPR News I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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