States faced with budget shortfalls in the billions of dollars are changing their tunes about how they generate revenue for law enforcement and other public services, condoning activities such as gambling that were restricted in the past.
In Ohio, residents recently voted to allow casinos, and Gov. Ted Strickland dropped his longtime opposition to video lottery machines, proposing to add them to racetracks to generate new funds, The Wall Street Journal
"If I had not been confronted with these difficult circumstances, I would have obviously opposed expanding gambling in Ohio," Strickland told the newspaper. Ohio is coping with a $3.2 billion deficit and 11 percent unemployment.
Lawmakers in California, suffering under a $20 billion budget gap, are considering a way to allow and tax Internet poker.
Rhode Island and a half-dozen other states are weighing whether to legalize and tax medical marijuana.
Five states have expanded Sunday alcohol sales, and localities in Alabama and Texas have also done away with longstanding restrictions on liquor sales. Local politicians in Connecticut are pressuring state leaders to lift its "blue laws," which forbid selling booze on Sundays.
Nearly every state is looking at new ways to make money, according to the Journal:
For fiscal 2011, 38 states project combined budget shortfalls of $89 billion, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, a bipartisan policy research group. Thirty-one states expect budget gaps totaling $73.5 billion in 2012. As a result, says Todd Haggerty, an analyst at the group, lawmakers are "trying anything and everything in order to bring their budgets into balance."