A court could decide Friday if a referendum to expand casino gambling in the state wasn't just uncommonly reworded to promise rosy benefits - but whether it was approved illegally in secret.
The dispute centers on the timing of changes made to the referendum acted upon by the state Board of Elections. The referendum was reworded to promise more jobs, tax cuts and aid for schools - all additions made to the initial version by Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration and legislative leaders, according to The Associated?Press.
However, a Brooklyn attorney who opposes the casino legislation claimed the changes were made after the July 29 meeting where the Board of Elections signed off on it. The attorney, Eric Snyder, said that would violate the state's Open Meetings Law.
The Board of Elections denied the vote to send the referendum to voters on the Nov. 5 ballot was in violation of the law. A Board of Elections spokesman told The Associated?Press the referendum was approved July 29 and released records signed by the executive directors that showed changes were made.
If the Board of Elections is found to have not voted for the change or to have violated the Open Meetings Law, the referendum could be blocked from the ballot.
Referenda are supposed to summarize a law passed by the Legislature to change the constitution. The measure written by Cuomo and the Legislature lists its purposes as "promoting job growth, increasing aid to schools, and permitting local governments to lower property taxes through revenues generated."
However, The Associated?Press noted the touted benefits of tax breaks and school aid aren't listed in the law.
A recent Siena College poll found the rosy wording worked. Voters were split on the issue at 46 percent when read the straight wording, but approval rose to 55 percent when voters were read the revised wording.
That's a shame. Voters should not be tricked into voting for a measure, which is exactly what's happening.
A referendum should be straightforward and explain the issue in an objective fashion, not make promises that state politicians have no means of keeping.
The casinos may create jobs, provide more money to schools and allow local politicians to lower property taxes. They also may cost people jobs, become a blight on the community, lead to people developing crippling gambling addictions and get the greedy state further into a business it should not even be dirtying its taxpayers' hands with.
However, none of those statements are objective - and in our opinion, nothing like them should have been in the referendum.