By Minority Leader Rep. Craig Ford
We are now more than two-thirds of the way through this year’s legislative session in Montgomery and, once again, our state leaders have denied the voters of Alabama the chance to vote on a statewide lottery.
This goes beyond just arguing over the merits of a state lottery. This is about democracy!
How can we trust the voters to elect us but not trust them to decide if they want to allow a lottery? What kind of sense does that make?
Not allowing a vote is also hypocritical. We’ve all heard politicians say the people know how to spend their money better than the government. These same politicians will tell you that a lottery is a tax on the poor.
So let me get this straight: we’re smart enough to decide how to spend our tax dollars, but not smart enough to decide if we want to buy a lottery ticket? And we’re smart enough to vote on our state leaders, but not smart enough to vote on allowing a statewide lottery to help fund education?
I’m almost impressed by our state leaders’ ability to talk out of both sides of their mouths at the same time!
Both public and private polling has shown that the lottery is extremely popular among Alabamians, with as much as 68 percent of registered voters supporting it! Not one, but three of the candidates running for governor – both Democrat and Republican – have made the lottery a part of their platform in this year’s election.
Even Governor Bentley has previously come out in support of letting the people vote on a lottery. In 2010, the governor said, ““I believe the people of Alabama need to decide at the ballot box on a YES or NO vote whether to allow gambling or abolish all forms of gambling.”
But even with all of this support, the Republican Supermajority that controls the Alabama legislature will not bring a lottery bill up for a vote. Why are we denying the voters a chance to be heard?
A state lottery can do so much good for our state. Fiscal estimates show that a lottery could generate $250 million every year for education. With that money, we could hire school resource officers, buy new textbooks and classroom supplies, put more teachers in our classrooms to reduce overcrowding or provide scholarships to our children.
But most of all, it is wrong that our state leaders are refusing to let the people vote. This isn’t just about gambling. This is a matter of democracy. If our state leaders do not trust the people to vote on a lottery, then we should not trust them with another four years in Montgomery!
Rep. Craig Ford is a Democrat from Gadsden and the Minority Leader in the Alabama House of Representatives.