By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Tuesday, September 30, Alabama House candidate Walton Hickman (D) announced that he favored a lottery to pay for Alabama kids to go to college upon graduation from high school.
Hickman said in a statement, “The single most important factor that has the greatest impact on a person’s future is education. Education translates into higher income, a better quality of life, and a more secure retirement. But, in the face of that fact, Alabama continues to lag behind the rest of the country in education funding. The most effective way to ensure progressive change in Alabama is to guarantee an education for the young people of Alabama through improved access to educational opportunities.”
Hickman said, “Tuition for Alabama colleges/universities has increased by nearly 35%, which is more than twice the rate of the growth of the average family income. In many cases, the ever-growing costs of educational opportunities are simply out of reach for many deserving young people. While schools are overcrowded and poorly funded, underpaid teachers continue to teach increasingly at-risk students whose eagerness to attend public higher education diminishes because the cost has made paying for college an impossibility.”
Hickman said that if he is elected to the House of Representatives, “I will support legislation to create and education lottery in Alabama so that all of our children can once again dream of bright futures secured with a quality education.”
Hickman said that a, “A student who maintains a solid academic record should be guaranteed a scholarship to a public Alabama university, two-year college, or technical program of their choice. All students who graduate from high school should be guaranteed a technical or trade education. Our lottery should also provide funding for apprenticeship programs in both union and non-union craft training facilities.”
Governor Bentley has said that if there is a lottery, at least part of the money should go towards the State’s struggling General Fund. The prison system is woefully underfunded and potentially facing a takeover by the Federal courts and the State’s Medicaid System is growing much faster than State revenues are……..even though Alabama offers the smallest Medicaid benefits package of any state in the country and can not afford that. Hickman’s lottery proposal would add yet another government benefit.
Critics of the lottery worry that if revenues from the lottery are not sufficient to pay for the promised scholarships and free technical education that the state is promising, parents who relied on the State to fund their children’s education instead of saving money for it themselves will then come to the state in mass and demand that the state pay for the promised scholarship even though there are not enough Alabama lottery players. Obviously Georgia and Florida, being much bigger states, are going to have the much bigger jackpots and thus continue to draw money from Alabama lottery players.
Many people also are critical of the State preying on people’s stupidity to pay for State services. Popular money advice writer and radio host Dave Ramsey says of lotteries. “You’re more likely to be hit by lightning five times and survive than you are to win the lottery. Five times! How many people do you know who have been hit once by lightning and survived, much less five times?…You’re not going to win, Dawn. Think I’m just being negative? No, I’m not. I’m being positive. I’m positive you’re not going to win! Stop placing your hope in the wrong things. Honestly, as a Christian, ask yourself if you believe God thinks this is a good use of your money. The lottery is a tax on poor people and people who can’t do math.”
Hickman’s Republican opponent in Alabama House District 90 candidate Chris Sells from Greenville announced on Friday that he was also supportive of a statewide votes on: the lottery as well as on school prayer, and other issues.
Sells said in a written statement, that he issued the statement to make clear his position on the right of the people to vote on important issues. Sells said, “I believe it is the people’s right to vote on issues such as the lottery. I also believe it is the people’s right to vote on issues such as prayer in schools. We had that right taken away from us. I believe the people should be controlling the government and not the government controlling the people.”
Sells did not offer specifics on what sort of lottery plan he supports.
House District 90 represents Butler County, Crenshaw County, and parts of Coffee, Conecuh and Montgomery counties. Sells said he is the only candidate in the race to present an education plan.
Sells narrowly won the Republican Party Primary over incumbent Charles Newton. Newton who has been a member of the Alabama legislature since 1989 had been elected as a Democrat, but changed parties only days before the qualifying deadline. Republican Primary voters selected Sells: 51.1 percent (1,767 votes) to 48.9% for Newton (1,691 votes).
The General Election will be November 4.