Fall Editorial Board 2016
In 2015, Governor Robert Bentley proposed a series of tax increases which would generate $541 million in revenue for Alabama.
Most of these tax hikes didn’t make it past the state legislature, thus Alabama sunk deeper into its fiscal crisis.
Alabama is unable to pay for its essential services. Important government services like Medicaid, prisons, courts and the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency are underfunded. Bentley is desperate to raise money that isn’t dependent on Republicans allowing tax increases.
He believes he has found a way: creating a state lottery.
Despite his history of speaking against gambling, once comparing state lotteries to the antiquated practice of wearing leisure suits, Bentley now believes a state lottery is a viable way to get extra money into Alabama’s General Fund.
If the lottery bill is approved by three-fifths of Alabama’s legislators, and approved by Alabama’s voters in a state-wide referendum, Bentley will appoint seven people to run an Alabama State Lottery Commission.
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We agree that running a state lottery is a good way to generate revenue for Alabama, but we believe that revenue should go toward the Education Trust Fund instead of the General Fund.
While we agree the General Fund needs more money, we believe using a lottery to fund it is not the way to procure the needed funds.
Lottery revenues can be unpredictable. Ticket sales fluctuate with the economy, which could present challenges to budgeting for vital services..
Furthermore, the Band-aid from this unpredictable source of revenue would provide a disincentive for Alabama’s government officials to craft a stable solution, such as tax increases or accepting Federal government aid by expanding Medicaid.
Putting more money toward education would allow schools to give students a more solid foundation for success.
Education can bring families out of generations of poverty.
Lottery-sponsored scholarships, such as the Georgia HOPE Scholarship, have paved the way to prosperity for many individuals.
In 2010 - 2011, lottery scholarship programs in Tennessee, Georgia and Florida served a total of 404,116 students.
There’s no reason a similar program couldn’t proffer similar effects here in Alabama. Instead of funding scholarships in other states, Alabamians ought to fund their own state scholarships.
Education affects adults in their dietary habits and other health-related aspects.
For instance, data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health show that in 2009-2010, 35 percent of adults who did not graduate high school were smokers, 30 percent of high school graduates were smokers and only 13 percent of college graduates were smokers.
Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System data indicates 61 percent of adults with less than a graduate degree, 68 percent of adults with a high school degree and 85 percent of adults with a college degree said they exercised in the past 30 days.
The combined effects of a stronger educational system can offset the costs of programs such as Medicaid and the issue of prison overcrowding.
A healthier population requires less money to take care of.
Less people being imprisoned means less of a burden on Alabama’s reluctant taxpayers.
By funding education through a state-run lottery, we attack the root of many of our state’s problems: education funding. If more money is placed there, essential services won’t cost so much.
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