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Lewes, Delaware
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March 27, 1998     Cape Gazette
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March 27, 1998

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CAPE GAZETTE, Friday, March 27 - April 2,'1998 - 17 Slots law, real estate tax changes succeed in Dover Real estate tax boon for beach By Rosanne Pack " As the General Assembly week wound down Thursday, March 26, the slots legislation finally paid off, a real estate transfer tax vote " relieved some ,of the pressure for revenue sharing, and the cigarette tax bill will not be flredup On the floor until next week. After months of negotiating and then stalemating, the bill that reauthorizes the slot machines at race tracks in Delaware passed the Senate March 26. On the other side of the hall, representatives passed a bill that gives counties and towns the opportunity for a larger share of the real estate transfer tax - not exactly revenue sharing, but close enough to get the Senators to move on the Horse Racing Redevelopment Act, a.k.a. the slots reauthorization. Before the Senate went into ses- sion on Thursday, Sen. Robert Voshell, D-Milford, said he ex- pected the slots legislation to pass. The senate majority leader said he wasn't sure that his colleagues would accept the beneficial divi- sion of real estate transfer tax as a substitute for revenue sharing, but senators wanted to get on with the slots bill and the saving of $31,000 a day that is orL every- one's mind. The legislation stalled in the Senate over the wishes of many Senators to see slot machine rental savings go to local commu- nities in the form of revenue shar- ing. "At this point, we don't have a compromise on revenue sharing, so we're going to work the slots bill anyway," Voshell said before it was successfully debated on the Senate floor. On the House side, a bill spon- sored by Rep. Donna Stone, R- Dover, and Rep. William Oberle, R-Newark - H.B. 525 - authorizes counties and incorporated towns to pass local ordinances that would allow them to keep half of the 3 percent real estate sales tax, with the remaining half going to the state. Presently, the state keeps 2 percent; locals keep 1 percent. Rep. John Schroeder, D-Lewes, signed on as a co-sponsor of H.B. 525. He said passage will mean a lot of money to his constituents in the beach area. "I was sure hoping it would pass; it will do a great deal for my municipalities," he said. "Using 1997 numbers, it looks like Re- hoboth Beach could gain $140,000; Lewes, $120,000; Dewey, $76,000. That's addition- . al money in real estate transfer taxes, over what they would al- ready get. "I think it's only fair that they get additional money; these are the communities that are dealing with growth and increased need for infrastructure and services." The undeniable fact that the state will save $31,000 a day with the new reauthorization weighed in with Senators over the revenue sharing issue. The new contracts for slot machine rental are tied in with the bill and the new rates Will produce the savings. - Two amendments introduced by local legislators faile d topass along with the reauthorization bill. One, proposed by Sen. George Bunting, D-BethanyBeach, would have attached a sunset pro- vision to the bill; another, pro- posed by Voshell, would have prohibited slots interests from building hotels or motels within 25 miles of tracks, therefore pro- tecting local lodging business people. Voshell's amendment failed by one vote. However, there is one amend- ment that passed with the reautho- rization bill, so it will go back to the House, which passed the origi- nal legislation in January. "The House will probably ac- cept it with the amendment," Schroeder said. "There comes a point that you stop playing politi- cal ping pong." At the time of passage, liite Thursday afternoon, the savings to be realized by the favorable slot machine rental contracts was still expected to go into the general fund rather than be earmarked for specific uses such as revenue sharing. Other bills do exist A bill proposed to deter youth smoking, H.B. 194, would in- crease the excise tax on cigarettes, smokeless tobacco and cigars. Proponents think that the in- creased price of tobacco products will reduce use by teenagers. Those opposed,'primarily retailers who sell the products, say that it will hurt their business overall, by reducing tobacco use in all ages. The American Cancer Society cites statistics showing that youth smoking in Delaware is higher than the national average. Anti-smoking activists say that studies show that young people are up to three times more sensi- tive to tobacco tax increases than adults. Schroeder said that he needs to see hard numbers before he com- mits tO the tobacco tax increase. "Is there a provable correlation between tax increase and a reduc- tion in teen smoking?" he said. '`The goal of the legislation is cer- tainly good, but I need to see more data from states that have enacted similar legislation." Rep. Shirley Price, D-Millville, thinks the scales are tipped in fa- vor of increasing the tobacco ex- cise tax. She said that she is sure that there would be some impact on sales overall, and retailers would feel some consequences, however, the end result is worth it. Is Your She doesn't think that many adults would be deterred, but the greater impact would be on youth smok- ing. "It's a double-edged sword; it may keep some from starting, but it may hurt sales overall as well," Continued on page 18 CP DIVER Home sale home. Whether you own or rent a house, apartment' or condo, Nationwide" has an insurance plan that's just right for you. At a price that's right for your budget. 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