Letters: Casino Could Harm Local Economy; Penn State’s Falling Value; Playing Politics with Lives; A Fair EV Tax
The impact report for the proposed Nittany Mall Casino estimates the casino will yield $121.6 million in economic impact and approximately $2 million in tax revenues for College Township annually. These headline numbers look good, but they are deceptive.
On average, a casino must take in more from its customers than it pays out or it will go bankrupt. Because the residents of Central Pennsylvania have limited discretionary income, any money they spend at a casino cannot be spent at other area businesses. The casino will therefore redirect existing money flows away from other area businesses to itself.
The casino developers argue that the casino will draw tourists from outside of Central Pennsylvania to our area. However, our neighboring larger cities already have casinos of their own, and people from these cities are unlikely to travel several hours to visit a small casino at the Nittany Mall. Even when people come to State College for other events like football games, graduations, and Arts Fest, the casino will not be large enough to serve more than a small fraction of these visitors during the times that they are in State College. Instead, the casino will derive most of its revenue from repeat customers within driving distance in Central Pennsylvania.
The impact report projects that the casino will eventually generate annual revenues of $116 million, most of which will come from our own community. Some of this will pay for rent, maintenance and employee salaries, and most of these expenditures will remain here. However, the casino will also pay over $48 million in tax revenue annually, of which less than $3 million will be paid to local governments. Over $45 million in taxes will be paid to the state each year, and these taxes likely will be spent outside of Central Pennsylvania. Additionally, the casino’s substantial profits will accrue to Bally’s Corporation, which is headquartered in Rhode Island, operates casinos in 10 other states and has no other investments in Pennsylvania. Bally’s is in business to make money for its investors, and it has no obligation to reinvest its profits into our community.
Unless the casino attracts the majority of its annual revenue from tourists from outside of Central Pennsylvania, it will end up extracting substantial money from our local economy rather than bringing additional money to it. Moreover, all of the revenue that the casino captures will be taken away from existing entertainment enterprises or businesses that create durable goods, capital equipment, infrastructure or skills training that could potentially add value to our community later on – whereas the entertainment that the casino provides will cease to exist as soon as it has been consumed.
The license for the Nittany Mall Casino has not yet been approved, and there is still time for its construction to be stopped. Please e-mail your public comments to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board at [email protected] and reference “Nittany Mall Casino” in the subject of your e-mail. College Township is tracking these public comments at https://www.collegetownship.org/casino_information/index.php.
Playing Politics with People’s Lives
When the history of the Coronavirus is written, it’s difficult to predict who will appear as the bigger fools: Republican politicians who lied that protecting yourself and others by wearing a mask and getting vaccinated would take away your freedoms, or their supporters who actually believed them.
One thing is certain, however. From Florida Governor Ron DeSantis all the way down to Pennsylvania Senator Jake Corman, Republican leaders will have a lot to answer for because they played politics with people’s lives. They could have been heroes, instead they are zeroes.
There have been 4.6 million deaths from COVID-19 worldwide; over 660,000 in the U.S. Tragically for all of us, this is not enough for DeSantis, Corman, and their fellow Republicans. They’re doing everything they can to boost those numbers.
University Leaders Responsible for Penn State’s Poor Value Ranking
The latest US News rankings of Colleges and Universities was just released. How did Penn State do?
Among all Big Ten Universities, Penn State finished 14th out of 14 in “Best Values” (and 163rd in the nation). Even more important than the ranking is the underlying factual data that went into the ranking.
On the financial front, Penn State has the highest tuition and fees for in-state students, and the lowest level of university scholarships awarded – combining to make Penn State the least affordable of all Big Ten public universities. With regard to academic quality, Penn State has plummeted to 10th in the Big Ten in standardized test scores. Those two factors – price and quality – combined to place Penn State dead last.
It didn’t use to be this way, and it doesn’t have to remain this way. But it has taken a decade of horrendous university leadership and governance to get us to this point. And it will stay this way – and continue to get even worse – unless and until those folks responsible for governing Penn State recognize the problems, and why they exist, and put in meaningful, righteous work to turn things around.
What a Fair EV Tax Would Look Like
In a recent column, John Hook proposed an Electric Vehicle tax (EV) in an attempt to establish fair taxation of EV and conventional internal combustion engine-powered (ICE) vehicles. He proposed a $2,100 annual tax on pure electric vehicles and a $1,050 annual tax on, I assume, plug-in hybrids. Conventional hybrids, like my wife’s Prius, only run on gasoline but use the electric motor/generator and battery to load match to conditions and boost overall system efficiency. For the record, I drive a plug-in hybrid sedan.
Now, relative to the proposed taxes, I considered my friend’s Tesla S. It’s an expensive, large sedan similar in size and price to the BMW 7-series. With the big engine and a $100K price tag, the BMW 750i has an EPA average fuel efficiency rating of 19 mpg. So, for each mile traveled, the owner of the big BMW pays 3.1 cents of gasoline tax to the state of PA. To clarify, that’s 58.7 cents of tax per gallon divided by 19 miles per gallon. So, if the big BMW is driven 12,000 miles per year, the owner will pay $371 in gas taxes to the state of PA. In my opinion, it’s fair if the owner of the Tesla S pays a similar amount if they drive a similar distance. However, it isn’t fair to tax the Tesla S owner at $2,100.
As for us plug-in hybrid owners, many of these vehicles are also available in a conventional ICE-powered version. In the case of my car, the ICE version has an EPA average fuel efficiency rating of 28-mpg. So, for each mile traveled the owner of the conventional version of my car, pays 2.1-cents in gasoline tax to the state of PA. Assuming 12,000-miles per year, that conventional model owner will pay $252 in state gasoline taxes. Now, is it fair to charge me the plug-in hybrid owner a similar amount? Not really, because 36% of my mileage is during gasoline-powered operation. That would be double taxation. So, the “fair” or gas tax replacement fee to me would be 64% of $252, or $160 for 12,000-miles of travel.
So, that’s an attempt at demonstrating how fair taxation of EV and plug-in hybrid vehicles could be done. In both cases, some form of annual odometer recording will be required, but the tax amounts are a lot less than envisioned by Mr. Hook. At the levels he proposed, there would be minimal reason to purchase or operate an EV.
As for capturing taxes from out-of-state EV drivers? Good luck.