Legislators should deny SB 528
Ross Schulz, Staff Writer
The Indiana Senate currently has a bill on the table, Senate Bill 528, that, if passed, could do considerable damage to Harrison County.
The bill would strip the county of about $8 million of riverboat gaming revenue from Horseshoe Southern Indiana’s casino at Bridgeport.
The bill isn’t fair to any of the communities throughout the state who took the gamble and voted to accept a riverboat on its shores, but it is especially unfair to Harrison County.
The deal to cap revenue to the riverboat counties was made in 2002, based on numbers that were artificially low for Harrison County because the hotel at Caesars (now Horseshoe) wasn’t yet open for business. Neither were many of the retail businesses now found on the casino property.
The bill would reverse the 2002 policy that capped revenues but also guaranteed they’d never receive less than the amounts they collected in 2002.
The capped amount was not nearly what Caesars/Horseshoe eventually started generating.
So, in a sense, the state actually owes Harrison County a good portion of funding it should have been receiving.
Riverboat gaming revenue is not only extremely important to the county for current programs and government departments, but also for economic development and future job growth.
Since riverboat money began pouring into the county, it has assisted in the following advancements (data provided by Darrell Voelker, the county’s Economic Development Corp. director): The purchase of Oxford Automotive by Martinrea (ICON Metal Forming), saving 360 jobs in 2005; purchasing and developing the industrial park off of Quarry Road (Howard Packaging now employs 100 people in an area that used to be a cornfield); infrastructure funding to assist Lucas Oil Products to get established along Harrison Way and facilitate its continued expansion by creating a mechanism for keeping the railroad operating in Harrison County (Lucas employs about 150 and is growing); building a water line to Norstam Veneers to help keep that business in the county after a devastating fire (Norstam has 55 to 85 employees); assisting the county’s regional sewer district to expand service in New Salisbury, thus giving businesses the opportunity to stay in business and potentially grow in the future (it also will certainly bring new businesses to the area); putting all of the infrastructure in place to accommodate commercial development along the Federal Drive-Pacer Court extension project; the Harrison County Hospital expansion; and a $5 million investment toward what may soon be the start of a new business park at the Lanesville Interstate 64 interchange.
Riverboat funds have been used for many more projects as well within county government, specifically in the highway department.
The list could go on and on.
With the state’s economy in a strong spot, siphoning more money from county government should be the last thing on legislators’ minds.