Right…The State Lottery was for Education; Native Gaming Slots Revenue was for cities and towns…And if you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you.
In 1993, the Mashantucket Pequot Nation signed an agreement with Governor Lowell Weicker and the state of Connecticut.
In return for the exclusive rights to have slot machines, Connecticut’s Native American Tribes would donate 25 percent of their gross slots revenue to the state of Connecticut. It was the most generous Native American Revenue Sharing agreement in the nation.
When the Mohegan Sun was opened a few years later, the program became known as the Mashantucket Pequot/Mohegan Grant. According to the program description, the fund “annually distributes a grant to each of the state’s 169 municipalities. The distribution is based on numerous factors including, but not limited to, the value of state-owned property, private college and general hospitals, population, equalized net grand list, and per capita income as set forth in Sections 3-55i, j, and k of the Connecticut General Statutes. Payment is made in three equal payments on January 1, April 1, and June 30th.”
In its first full year, about $85 million was distributed to Connecticut’s cities and towns. The state of Connecticut was a bit short on revenue that year, so it withheld the other $30 million in order to help balance the state budget.
Over the years, as the two Native American casinos became more and more successful, the amount of money flowing into the state coffers grew substantially.
Some years the state provided its cities and towns a little more money (one year the grant grew to $135 million), but in other years, it cut the grant a bit. Each time, the excess stayed in the state’s General Fund.
Over the past 19 years, the Native American Tribes have given the state approximately $6.2 billion. Over that same period, the state has passed on about $1.5 billion or less than 25 percent of the money generated by the agreement. Connecticut’s state government spent the rest…
In recent years, the state has reduced the Mashantucket Pequot/Mohegan grant even further.
This fiscal year Governor Malloy’s budget allocates only about $62 million to the cities and towns via the Mashantucket Pequot/Mohegan grant program.
But then came last week’s budget proposal from the Governor.
In a major policy shift, perhaps one of the biggest in the entire budget, Governor Malloy has proposed to reduce the Native American grant program to almost zero. Instead, the Governor’s budget plan has the state borrowing an additional $56 million and giving it to towns to boost their Local Capital Improvement Grants (LoCIP). The unrestricted Mashantucket Pequot/Mohegan grant would, for all intent, cease to exist.
It is ironic, to say the least, that on the twentieth anniversary of the Native American Slots Agreement, the Governor would run a wooden stake through the heart of what is left of Governor Weicker’s original proposal to allow the Tribes to have exclusive rights to slot machines in return for a “permanent” revenue source to help cities and towns pay their bills and lower their local property taxes.