Pennsylvania Gov. Edward Rendell yesterday said he is “very hopeful” he will receive a table-games bill by the end of the week, which would help balance the fiscal 2010 budget and avoid 1,000 state employee layoffs, but he warned that any future general revenue shortfalls may require reducing the state’s payroll this year.
The Senate yesterday was set to vote on a compromise table-games bill after a conference committee hammered out the remaining details of the measure, according to Erik Arneson, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi.
The House could vote on it today, Bob Caton, spokesman for House Speaker Keith McCall, said in an e-mail.
The legislation would expand gaming in Pennsylvania and allow casinos and racetracks to offer blackjack, poker, and roulette. The state expects to receive roughly $250 million this fiscal year from license fees. Fiscal 2010 began July 1.
The compromise bill would give Philadelphia’s 2% local share on table-game revenue directly to the city and allow smaller casinos located in resort facilities to implement up to 50 tables, including up to 15 poker tables, Arneson said via e-mail.
The current rates and fees in the bill include a one-time license fee of $16.5 million — less for smaller, resort casinos — and a 16% tax on table-game revenue. Of that 16%, the state will receive 14%, with counties and cities collecting 1% each.
Rendell on Dec. 17 gave the legislature a Jan. 8 deadline to pass the table-games initiative after more than three months of debate on the issue. Without such legislation, and the $250 million it could generate this year for the state’s coffers, the governor said he would be forced to cut the state’s workforce by 1,000, with some of those layoffs beginning this month.
“I am cautiously or guardedly optimistic that I will get a bill that I can sign before the end of the week,” Rendell said yesterday during a press conference.
Even with the anticipated additional revenue from table games, Pennsylvania’s general revenues are underperforming. Revenue collections from July through December totaled $12.4 billion — $254.2 million, or 2%, below budgeted estimates, according to the Department of Revenue. Sluggish sales tax receipts and income tax collections account for most of the shortfall.
Depending on future revenue performance, the state may again need to consider layoffs to help balance the current fiscal budget.
“If revenues continue to go below expectations, layoffs are a continuing possibility,” Rendell said. “We’re going to fight as hard as we can to prevent that, but there’s no other way to slice it.”