Indians push for Bustamante to replace recalled Davis

Sep 9, 2003 5:07 AM

For whatever reason, none specified, Gov. Gray Davis signed gaming compacts with California’s Native Americans four years ago without extracting payments from the casino operating tribes to mitigate the expenses the gambling would generate for the state and the communities involved.

He did this despite the experience of other states such as Connecticut and Wisconsin where a certain percentage of the gaming revenue is passed along to the state coffers. In recent negotiations, Wisconsin has developed an agreement that will go a long way toward balancing the budget over the next two years.

But the dilemma Davis created with the initial compacts that give the Indian casinos a free ride has come back to haunt him. In March, he began negotiations for compact renewals attempting to incorporate provisions that would generate funds for the state. His efforts were immediately rebuffed by most of the 55 tribes that are involved in gambling.

Now that Davis faces a recall, primarily because the state’s financial condition is suffering, he has failed to attract support from the wealthy gaming operators who are believed to fund the state’s biggest lobbying efforts. From news accounts, it appears the Indians have decided to support Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, the Democrats’ best hope of retaining the governorship should the recall find majority support at the polls.

Bustamante has launched an all-out effort to become the state’s next governor while announcing that he would place the Indian financial support he is receiving in another account to avoid being criticized for violating campaign finance laws. But, based on his record as Speaker of the state’s Assembly, the tribes are satisfied that a Gov. Bustamante can be counted on to support their causes.

And that most certainly will mean expanded gaming.

The Insider

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