Aug 28, 2009 9:25 AM by James Jarman

Gambling crimes up, but governor may take away money used to fight it

El Paso County leaders are gearing up for a fight with the governor's office.

They say the democratic governor's trying to balance the budget by breaking a promise that was made to the voters back in 1990.

District Attorney Dan May told the commissioners about it at their Tuesday board meeting. He says the governor's proposed budget transfers roughly $5-million in gambling grants from local counties to the state.

"One of the things that was kind of hidden and sort of came to the surface late friday afternoon that we heard about is that he was suggesting taking the gaming grants that are given out to local government, local agencies and also non profits ad shifting that money from the locals over to the state agencies in order to cover the state's shortfall," May told commissioners.

The commissioners, all 5 are republican, noted that the grant money was promised to voters nearly 20 years ago. If voters approved gaming, their local government's would money to help offset costs related to crime and other negative impacts of gambling.

May said that since July 1, when gaming was expanded to 24 hours a day and betting limits increased from $5 to $100, crime associated with gambling's gone up 50% in El Paso County and even more in Teller County.

Commissioner Amy Lathen said that type of move is what ruins trust in government, "This is the kind of bait ad switch that causes people to say 'enough. We don't trust' and it is simply wrong."

May said it's unclear if the state money grab is legal. He says the loss of money to his office would be roughly $500,000 a year. Commissioner Sallie Clark said the loss of funding would mean 90 local children would not get help from the Court Appointed Special Advocate program.

"I have to tell you I am outraged that Bill Ritter would so blindly go forward and I think that shows his inexperience at running a government - that this may not even be legal," Clark said.

All the commissioners agreed to draft a resolution against the transfer of funds. "I join with my colleagues in saying we're willing to fight for these funds and to say this is the promise that was made to the people," said Commissioner Wayne Williams.

Governor Ritter's spokesman Evan Dryer told News First 5 "people should not to let political rhetoric cloud the fiscal reality we're facing."

He also said the cuts are not permanent, and the $5 million is part of $1.8 billion dollars in cuts the state had to make. And the governor had "to make difficult decisions in order to the keep the budget balanced."


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