Democratic candidate for governor Walt Maddox told a crowd of Auburn students Monday night that they could stand to benefit most from an education lottery.
Maddox, 45, has made passing an education lottery the core component of his campaign to be Alabama's first Democratic governor in more than a decade. With only a week until election day on Nov. 6, the Democrat and Tuscaloosa mayor made his case to the college-aged students in the crowd.
"We know this election probably impacts you far greater than any other demographic," Maddox told students gathered in the Student Center. "If we come out on the short end of this election, I'm fearful that [you] won't stay here in Alabama. You won't invest here in Alabama. We're going to continue to lag behind the rest of the nation where it matters most."
The Maddox campaign estimates an education lottery would generate $300 million in revenues that could be put toward public schools and college scholarships.
His campaign's estimates are actually more conservative than a 2015 Auburn University Montgomery study commissioned by Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, which concluded a lottery could add $330 million to the state's budgets.
Maddox's speech at Auburn comes on the heals of the second-largest lottery jackpot and the fourth-largest jackpot in history. Both jackpots — $1.537 billion and $687.8 — were won in the course of a week and could provide millions in tax revenues for both the federal government and the states where tickets were sold and where the winners bought their winning tickets.
"The only losers from last week's Mega Millions and Powerball were the students in the state of Alabama, because students elsewhere, they got their scholarship programs increased and they got their pre-K programs enhanced, and we didn't do anything in Alabama," Maddox said.
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Gov. Kay Ivey, Maddox's Republican opponent, has said she would support a state referendum to allow for a statewide lottery, but she would leave that decision up to the state Legislature.
The Legislature would need to authorize a referendum to change the state's Constitution, but Maddox said he would call a special session immediately upon taking office to force the Legislature to take up the issue.
If the Democratic candidate is able to push an education lottery through Alabama's Republican-majority Legislature, his plan would dedicate $125 million of lottery revenues to scholarships, $90 million for universal pre-K and the remainder for public schools, some of which would be dedicated for mental health and other support functions.
Part of the money, $60 million, would benefit struggling schools through Maddox's proposed Promise program.
"We can't abandon people in the rural parts of our state just because of where they are born and who they are," he said.
Maddox encouraged students to go vote for him and other Democratic candidates on Nov. 6, saying elections have consequences.
"They are counting on you not voting. They are counting on you not showing up," Maddox said.
Maddox touched on other key components of his campaign during his visit to Auburn including Medicaid expansion, which drew cheers from a college-aged crowd and working across party lines with Republicans in the state Legislature.
"Both parties have let all of Alabama down," Maddox said, referencing Alabama's performance in key health and well-being measures like infant mortality and education investment. "We've got to end divisive politics because it doesn't serve any of us well."
Maddox said the expansion of Medicaid could benefit recent college graduates who are searching for or beginning their first jobs that may not provide health insurance.
"I remember when I graduated from college my first job didn't have health insurance, and those first few months were scary," Maddox said. "The expansion of Medicaid would likely alleviate that for many of those students in the room."
Ivey, 74, has consistently outraised Maddox throughout the campaign. The most recent weekly mandatory campaign finance filings from Monday show Maddox raising a total of $45,465 to Ivey's $146,413. Maddox finished the week with $150,729 in cash on hand after spending $62,325. Ivey finished with $222,796 in the bank after spending $212,304 last week.
Maddox told reporters after his speech that he wants students to know he cares about them.
"Our policies are going to impact the next generation of Alabamians," Maddox said. "Right now in Alabama, we're not building those opportunities. Whether you're a student here at Auburn, UAB, UAH, South [Alabama] or Alabama, you're not putting all this work in to not have an opportunity down the road. I want those opportunities in our state."
Maddox, who has criticized Ivey for refusing to debate him over the course of the campaign, brought up the issue again Monday night.
"If we continue to reward politicians, regardless of party, who refuse to engage in debate, who want to try to promote divisive rhetoric, who come to the table with nothing more than empty words instead of solutions," Maddox said. "If we reward that type of behavior, you're going to continue to get the outcomes that come with that, and that's being at or near the bottom in everything that matters."
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