Coleman, Voinovich Blast “Learn & Earn”

Sen. Voinovich (R-OH), Columbus Mayor Coleman denounce Issue 3 "Learn & Earn"
Sen. Voinovich (R-OH), Columbus Mayor Coleman denounce Issue 3 "Learn & Earn"

Columbus Mayor Coleman (D) and U.S. Senator Voinovich (R-OH) today jointly condemned the Learn and Earn ballot initiative. The measure would amend the state constitution to allow slot machines at the state’s seven race tracks. Minutes later, Cleveland’s mayor and a member of Congress spoke in favor of the plan.

Coleman and Voinovich delivered a barrage of criticism on Issue 3. The mayor said passage of the measure would devastate the city’s second largest industry – tourism. It would shift the social cost of gambling, he said, to those who could least afford it. And it would devalue the millions of dollars spent on downtown development.

“If this thing passes I’m going to hear a sucking sound out of downtown,” Coleman said.

Coleman denied the issue is Columbus-versus-Cleveland, even though that city’s mayor held a near simultaneous pro Learn and Earn rally. Coleman said the measure should be called Greed and Burn. It was a plan he characterized as devised by gambling executives smoking fat cigars.

“Issue 3 is not about education,” Coleman said, “and it’s not about scholarships. It’s about a few rich people getting together in a room and dividing up the profits at the expense of too many Ohioans.”

Senator Voinovich, a longtime gambling opponent, said amending the constitution to expand gambling was poor public policy. Voinovich, an early opponent of the state’s lottery, said Issue 3 was worse because more than half the profits would go to a small group of people.

“This group is going to rip off 61% of the money generated by these slot machines,” Voinovich said. “Nine individuals are going to get very, very rich. At least with the lottery, we get all the money!”

109,000 additional Ohioans would become gambling addicts if Learn and Earn is approved, according to opponents. Voinovich mocked the 1% the plan designates to treat those new addictions.

“These folks admit that there are going to be addicts. And you know what they did? They put 1% into the constitution to take care of the addiction problem. Isn’t that lovely? They took 1% to take care of the addiction and 6% for purses at the race tracks. That’s how they balance things up,” Voinovich said.

Voinovich and Coleman may not be as enlightened as other Ohio leaders who support the measure. That’s the assessment of Ernest Baynard, a spokesman for the Vote Yes on Issue 3 campaign. He applauds Cleveland mayor Frank Jackson and Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones for their support.

“They see the clear economic benefits that will come to Ohio in the form of $850 million a year in college tuition assistance for which every Ohio student would be eligible,” Baynard said. “They see 56,000 new, permanent jobs. And apparently, and unfortunately, Mayor Coleman has decided to join Sen. Voinovich who believes that the only way we can improve education affordability is to raise taxes.”

Baynard also touted the 1% that would be set aside to treat gambling addiction. With the additional money, he said, Ohio would top the list for state spending on treatment programs for gambling addicts.