There is no need for Penn State to wait one more day for state funding.
That simple fact may come as a surprise to administrators, teachers and students. Many of them have been told they can't have the money until the state expands its gambling law. There is no reason for these two completely unrelated issues - higher education funding and gambling - to be tied together.
This is one of the oldest tricks in the political playbook. Those who support the expansion of gambling in Pennsylvania are attempting to tie it to a very popular issue: funding for higher education.
The same trick was used when legalized gambling was first introduced in Pennsylvania. Supporters argued that homeowners could not have property tax relief without legalizing slot machines. Several years later, we have casinos and rising property tax bills.
Now, the same lobbyists and politicians who championed slots parlors are pushing for the legalization of table games, such as poker and blackjack.
The faculty, staff and students at Penn State have been taken hostage. The ransom demanded by their captors is the expansion of gambling in the Commonwealth. If Pennsylvanians do not cave to their demands, they threaten to withhold vital funding for universities across the Keystone State.
A quick look at the facts will remove the veil from this not-so-well hidden plot.
All together, the four major state-related universities - Lincoln, Penn State, Pitt and Temple - are waiting to receive nearly $800 million in state funds. However, initial estimates suggest the legalization of table games would provide only approximately $200 million.
A freshman accounting student could tell you this math simply doesn't add up.
Table game revenues alone couldn't cover even a quarter of the state funding that has been promised to these schools. Those who argue you can't have higher education funding without table games would have you believe that they can fill an $800 million hole with a $200 million cork.
The truth is, the funding for Penn State this year could come from the same place it has come from before: traditional revenue sources. No expansion of gambling is necessary.
The state this year will collect the revenues to fund Penn State, just as it has in years past. All that is necessary is a bill passed by the General Assembly and signed into law by the governor releasing the funds.
It's time for the gambling interests and the politicians who support them to release the hostages. Parents and students, teachers and administrators should be let loose.
The House and Senate should work in a bipartisan manner to pass a bill releasing the funds for Penn State and the other schools. When he receives it, the governor should sign that bill into law and end the unnecessary standoff.
The only thing standing between our universities and the funding they need is the false notion that somehow the entire issue hinges on the expansion of gambling in Pennsylvania.
We don't need blackjack to pay for biology classes or roulette to pay for research projects. The money for higher education is there. The state just needs to release it.
State Rep. Kerry Benninghoff, R-Bellefonte, represents the 171st Legislative District. He can be reached online at www.kerrybenninghoff.com.