County appears to have averted another battle cruiser
Ross Schulz, Staff Writer
The battle for Harrison County riverboat money (and other riverboat counties) reminds me of a scene from the 1997 hit film ‘Men in Black.’
Shortly after Will Smith’s character ‘ Agent J ‘ accepts his post as a secret agent that fights aliens, he gets in a shooting match with one in broad daylight and has no patience for his partner, Agent K, and his cover up and plan to keep things quiet.
‘I don’t know whether or not you’ve forgotten, but there’s an Arquillian Battle Cruiser that’s about to … ‘ Agent J screamed, but was cut off by Agent K: ‘There’s always an Arquillian Battle Cruiser or a Corillian Death Ray or an intergalactic plague that is about to wipe out all life on this miserable little planet, and the only way these people can get on with their happy lives is that they DO NOT KNOW ABOUT IT!’
When it comes to the Indiana General Assembly, it may not be an Arquillian Battle Cruiser or Corillian Death Ray, but there’s always someone trying to get their hands on Harrison County’s riverboat gaming revenue.
Luckily for us, just like the M.I.B., there are people protecting our interests every step of the way.
Every passing legislative session brings a new challenge for those fighting to protect our gaming funds, whether it be our representatives, local commissioners and council representatives or the ones the county pays to protect the funds, the lobbying firm Frost Brown Todd.
Last week, the county staved off what was probably the biggest threat yet to the gaming funds with the amendment of House Bill 1540.
According to a fiscal impact study, if the bill would have passed through as it stood before Tuesday of last week, Harrison County would have lost $6 million in 2016, $7 million in 2017 and $10 million in 2018, all massive chunks of the $23 million the county receives on a yearly basis.
Harrison County officials have worked hard to see to it that, even if the riverboat revenue dried up tomorrow, we’d still have enough money to continue operating as is, for the most part, for a year or two.
The day most likely never will come when the riverboat revenue comes to an abrupt halt; at worst, it will be a slow trickle of a reduction (which may or may not have recently started). But regardless, any loss in the revenue is cause for concern.
To see the benefits of the riverboat funds, most Harrison Countians only need leave their home as almost every stretch of county road has been paved, enhanced or improved with the help of gaming-fund dollars.
One would have a hard time finding a nonprofit organization in the county that hasn’t been financially aided with riverboat gaming funds.
Highly visible projects made possible by riverboat gaming funds include the remodeling of the old hospital into the Government Center and the multi-million-dollar reduction of debt for the new hospital.
Luckily, with the deft work of Frost Brown Todd, our county commissioners, State Reps. Rhonda Rhoads, R-Corydon, and Steve Davisson, R-Salem, and others, Harrison County’s gaming revenue will live to see another day, at least for now.
It is, of course, an ongoing fight, and the bill has moved to the Senate where changes could be made. But make no mistake, we’ll have eyes on it all along the way.