General Bondi’s Action on Gretna Racing Slot Machine Ruling Cheered by Florida’s Thoroughbred Racehorse Owners and Trainers

In response to the news that Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has requested a full-court rehearing of a recent ruling allowing slot machines at Gretna Racing LLC, Florida’s Thoroughbred racehorse owners and trainers agreed that, without such intervention, the result of allowing the earlier decision to stand would indeed be a “jaw-dropping gambling expansion.”

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Representing more than 6,000 horsemen statewide, Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (FHBPA) President Bill White reminded that, during the span of December 2011 to January 2012, Gretna Racing LLC leveraged “pari-mutuel barrel racing” to convince the Gadsden County Commission to hold a slot referendum on January 31, 2012.

Other pari-mutuel permit holders followed suit, basing their actions on various convolutions of horse-related events designed as work-arounds to Florida law, which requires two years worth of live horse racing as a prerequisite to licensing for card rooms or slot machines.

In 2013, it was adjudicated that “pari-mutuel barrel racing” was not even real barrel racing, but wrongly approved as a new gambling product by the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering with no legislative authorization, regulatory hearings or public input.

The most recent developments in the Gretna Racing matter have led horsemen to question whether a slot license legally can, or should be granted to the North Florida pari-mutuel permitholder, or any similar permitholder that has used horse-related events in a manner that has precluded the creation of jobs, businesses and positive economic benefit that would normally come with accredited horse racing and breeding operations.

The FHBPA and its colleagues, the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association, and the Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association, have strongly objected to the use of questionable horse-related events like “flag dropping” and “pari-mutuel barrel racing” in lieu of horse racing–heretofore unheard-of events that have been allowed to serve as the pari-mutuel basis for licensing of 365-day cardrooms, simulcasting or efforts to secure slot machines.

“If accredited horse racing would have been required in these locations, their local communities could have created far more jobs, businesses and economic impact,” White explained.  “For this reason, we urge General Bondi to strive to preserve one of Florida’s foremost economic generators–its world-renowned Thoroughbred horse racing industry, as well as its rapidly growing American Quarter Horse Racing industry.”

“This is a good opportunity to remind our policymakers that the purpose of state-sanctioned gambling is to increase tax revenues and economic impact, not to create the optimal atmosphere for out-of-state casinos or otherwise untaxed profits,” White noted.

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Concord Coalition Releases Eight Key Questions About Social Security for Its 80th Birthday

As Social Security approaches its 80th anniversary,  this is a good time to note the program’s accomplishments while taking a hard look at its future — including the need to put Social Security on a sustainable, long-term path.

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With that in mind, The Concord Coalition is releasing a paper today that discusses eight key questions about Social Security that elected officials, the media and American public should focus on.

“Today a majority of seniors receive over half of their retirement income from Social Security,” the paper notes. “It provides 90 percent or more of retirement income for almost one-third of retired beneficiaries.”

But there are major challenges: “Social Security has been running annual cash deficits since 2010. Absent congressional action, Social Security disability benefits will be cut across the board by 19 percent in 2016 and retirement benefits will be cut by 23 percent in 2035. Meanwhile, the expanding gap between Social Security’s dedicated revenues and benefit payments will contribute to future federal budget deficits.”

Concord emphasizes that it will be easier — and more fair to younger Americans — to enact Social Security reforms sooner rather than later. On an encouraging note, the paper points out that various bipartisan groups have offered an array of thoughtful proposals for elected officials to consider.

The eight specific questions addressed in Concord’s paper:

1. Is Social Security on sound footing for the next 80 years?

2. What are the budgetary consequences of doing nothing?

3. What is the most immediate concern?

4. What’s driving the problem?

5. Did Congress “steal” from the trust fund?

6. Why take action now?

7. What reforms could solve the problem?

8. Is bipartisan cooperation possible?

The full paper, “Social Security: Eight Questions for Its 80th Birthday,” can be found here.

New CBO Projections Show Need to Address Growing Debt

The Concord Coalition said today that updated projections on the federal budget reinforce the need for presidential candidates in both parties to explain how they would curb the growth of the national debt over the next decade and beyond.

“Even with declining short-term deficits and slowing health care costs, Washington clearly remains on an unsustainable fiscal path,” says Robert L. Bixby, Concord’s executive director. “The federal debt is already quite high by historical standards, and the new projections confirm that Washington must make fundamental policy changes to avoid adding $7 trillion — and perhaps much more — to the federal debt over the next 10 years. The presidential candidates need to let voters know what they intend to do about that if elected.”

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In its report today, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) offers new 10-year baseline projections for the nation’s spending programs and revenue collection, along with an updated economic outlook. Stronger-than-expected revenues will help reduce this year’s deficit to $426 billion (2.4 percent of GDP), an improvement of $59 billion (0.4 percent of GDP).

Overall, however, the report says the budget outlook for this period “does not differ substantially” from what CBO projected in March. Baseline projections are based on current law and do not take into account deficit-increasing policies that tend to get passed on a yearly basis — like the extension of numerous targeted tax breaks.

The latest report again highlights the growing pressures on the federal budget, largely as the result of an aging population, rising health care costs, and soaring interest payments on the debt in the years ahead. Social Security, the major health care programs and interest payments are all projected to grow as a share of the economy while all other programs are projected to shrink.

In total, CBO projects that federal spending will rise from 20.6 percent of GDP in 2015 to 22.0 percent of GDP by 2025 while revenues tick up just slightly, from 18.2 percent of GDP to 18.3 percent.

Under current law, CBO says, deficits over the next decade could push federal debt held by the public to 77 percent of GDP — up from 74 percent now, and roughly twice the average level over the past five decades.

“The structural mismatch between the federal government’s spending and tax policies is made abundantly clear in CBO’s report,” Bixby says. “There are no mysteries here for anyone who is open to looking at the basic facts.”

There were earlier red flags this summer when the CBO released its Long-Term Budget Outlook and the trustees of Medicare and Social Security issued their annual reports on those two troubled programs.

The Long-Term Outlook warned of even greater fiscal difficulties beyond 2025 unless Washington pursues extensive changes well before then. The trustees reiterated that Medicare and Social Security should be repaired soon, with particularly urgent concerns about the Disability Insurance Trust Fund running dry next year.

The updated CBO projections come as President Obama and Congress prepare to square off over a number of pressing fiscal deadlines.

Government agency funding will run out on Oct. 1, forcing a disruptive shutdown absent agreement on appropriations for Fiscal Year 2016. By the end of October, lawmakers will need to tackle the long-term shortfall facing the Highway Trust Fund. Soon after that, the statutory debt limit will need to be raised. Before the end of the year lawmakers will also have to decide whether to extend a number of expired tax breaks and how to make up the lost revenue, if at all.

Today CBO also released a report on the debt limit, saying that the special measures being used by the Treasury to avoid breaching the limit would be exhausted sometime between mid-November and early December. The Concord Coalition has long urged Congress to avoid unnecessary brinksmanship by raising the debt limit sooner rather than later.
“What used to be ‘regular order’ in the congressional budget process has turned into ‘regular chaos.’ Meanwhile, the broad picture remains one in which entitlement programs and interest payments will continue rising while other spending — in other domestic as well as defense programs — shrinks substantially as a share of the economy,” Bixby said. “Moreover, government revenue from our inefficient tax system would fall farther and farther behind federal spending. That’s not the path to national strength, growth and prosperity. And it certainly isn’t fair to our children and future generations.”

A copy of this release can be found here.