A revamped casino deal between the state and the tribe that operates Thunder Valley Casino Resort received heavy praise at its first legislative hearing Tuesday and appears headed for quick ratification.
“I don’t see anything not to love about this thing,” state Sen. Tom Berryhill, R-Twain Harte, said at one point as the Senate Governmental Organization Committee took testimony on the amended compact with the United Auburn Indian Community.
Gov. Jerry Brown and the tribe announced the agreement Aug. 14. It changes parts of the deal the tribe reached with then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2004, and would reduce the tribe’s revenue-sharing payments to the general fund, from about $40 million to $15 million, with $9 million of that earmarked for public works projects in Placer County.
“I can’t tell you that it’s a good thing that the state’s general fund will be getting less revenue,” Joe Dhillon, Brown’s senior adviser for tribal negotiations, told the Senate committee. The agreement, he added, would provide more money to help tribes that offer little or no gambling, as well as residents of Placer County.
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Overall, the tribe would pay about $36 million annually under the deal, compared with $42 million under the existing one, Dhillon said. Besides the $15 million for the general fund, the tribe would pay $18 million to the state account set aside to help poor tribes. Of that amount, $9 million would be available for public transit, education, renewable energy and other non-gambling projects that benefit the tribe and state.
The agreement also calls for the tribe to pay $3 million to the state fund that provides money for problem gambling, casino regulation and other programs.
Assembly Bill 315, the newly amended ratification measure, awaits a vote in the Senate before going to the Assembly.
The bipartisan praise for United Auburn’s latest compact Tuesday was mostly absent when the Legislature considered the tribe’s 2004 deal. Republican lawmakers initially balked at the pact and several others negotiated by Schwarzenegger over concerns that it would help unions organize casino workers and become a model for future agreements.