Showing Their Cards

1185807848Now that Gov. Deval Patrick has outlined his casino plan, our two newspapers all over the proposal. From exactly what circle of hell Sal DiMasi will put the governor through to get his plan approved by the Legislature, to how happy it would make gambling aficionados to have casinos closer to their homes. How did the news play on the Op-Ed pages?

The Herald is cautiously optimistic, although it blames Patrick’s “caviar tastes” for making him look into casino gambling for relief:

Since taking office, it seems this governor of caviar tastes couldn’t speak into a microphone without announcing a new government program, one that typically carried a billion-dollar price tag:

Stem cell research and other life sciences grants ($1 billion). Commuter rail service to the South Coast ($1.4 billion). Free community college for all (who knows how much). To say nothing of the campaign promise to create 100,000 jobs – and provide property tax relief to homeowners.

None of these initiatives has actually happened, but okay. Patrick has sketched big dreams for Massachusetts, which is why got elected (and the fact he isn’t Kerry Healey didn’t hurt too much, either). But that’s all they are right now: dreams.

The Herald did go for Patrick’s stall tactics, er reasoning, and points out that it’s either wonderful casinos or evil gas taxes and usage fees for our highways that will save our state:

. . . [A]nyone who doubts the wisdom of the governor’s proposal should decide whether they prefer an 11 cent hike in the gas tax – and a “Big Brother”-style system for tracking how far Bay State motorists drive, then charging them by the mile. Coming on the same day, those proposals by the Transportation Finance Commission should make this casino proposal that much more attractive.

The Globe doesn’t take the “gas tax or casino” bait. But it does put a large amount of faith in the Governor’s vague promises to regulate the casino efficiently.

. . . Patrick’s early focus on regulatory and oversight issues shows he understands that the success or failure of his casino initiative depends on the legal structure beneath it. That focus also suggests he won’t be played for a fool.

. . . Still unresolved are some basic issues about the commission – the precise number of members, the process for appointing them, the length of their terms, the ethics rules that would govern their conduct.

Are we the only ones who are a little skeptical about state agencies at this point? We’ve got two highway agencies. The MBTA is a mess. Ethics rules have proven confusing to some former state employees, so we’d have to have more than a sketch of how these things will work.

Stay tuned, kids. It’s only just begun.