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Viewpoints: Proposition 48 will boost Central Valley’s economy

In California, business and labor leaders don’t always see eye-to-eye on issues – but we are in complete agreement on our support for Proposition 48.

Why? Because Proposition 48 is the “on switch” for a powerful, new economic engine in one of the poorest regions of the Central Valley.

A “yes” vote would approve two tribal gambling compacts negotiated by the governor, ratified by a bipartisan majority of the Legislature and supported by a broad coalition of local community leaders and business, labor and environmental groups.

The Proposition 48 compacts allow the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians near Yosemite and the Wiyot Tribe near Humboldt Bay to benefit from a single gambling project on the North Fork Tribe’s federal land in rural Madera County. It is expected to generate 4,500 jobs, $2 billion in economic benefits and $600 million in shared revenues for state and local governments, law enforcement, schools, job training programs and non-gambling tribes.

Reaffirming Gov. Jerry Brown’s tribal gambling compacts is not just vital for job creation and local control, but it also rights a historical wrong at no cost to taxpayers.

The North Fork tribe – with nearly 2,000 members, one of the largest federally recognized tribes in California – has been striving for more than a decade to reclaim a fraction of its rightful lands. Similarly, the 600 members of the Wiyot tribe near Humboldt Bay have been seeking economic self-sufficiency while protecting their environmentally sensitive coastal lands from development. Proposition 48 accomplishes both goals while creating thousands of new jobs in one of the highest unemployment areas of the state.

So why is Proposition 48 on the ballot? Because two local, competing tribal casinos and their Wall Street hedge-fund backers want to stop competition. Having repeatedly failed to block North Fork at the local, state and federal levels, they now want to set a troubling new precedent in which statewide elections start picking winners and losers among tribes.

Brown has called this cynical effort “unfortunate” and about “money and competition.” Tom Wheeler, chairman of the Madera County Board of Supervisors, has said: “We can’t allow New York hedge-fund operators ... to determine our economic future.”

It’s tragic some tribes that have successfully climbed the ladder of economic opportunity are now trying to pull it up behind them. It’s even worse that they, and the organizations they support, are trying to scare voters with baseless claims of “reservation shopping” and of a wave of new urban casinos.

Tellingly, Cheryl Schmit, now the leader of the “No on 48” campaign, in 2006 praised the North Fork project, saying: “This is not reservation shopping. ... This is the state exercising its authority to locate gaming where it is wanted.”

The governor made it clear in his analysis of the tribe’s application, which lasted more than seven years, that its unique facts guaranteed few tribes would be able to follow the same path. This project will be built exactly where and how it should be – on rural land well within North Fork’s historical territory and with the cooperation and approval of local, state, federal, labor and business partners.

Voting “yes” on Proposition 48 is the right thing to do for the citizens of the Central Valley and of California.