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GOP’s Dawson says lottery plans prey on those who can least afford it

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Democratic candidate for governor Walter “Walt” Maddox released his plan for an education lottery Monday following a lottery plan released by Democratic gubernatorial candidate Sue Bell Cobb released last week.

That afternoon Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Dawson released a statement denouncing the Democrat lottery proposal as an effort to keep Alabama in the past, prey on those who can least afford it, and bank the future of our kids on a game of chance.

“Democrats want to bank the future of our kids on a game of chance and that is not something that I’m willing to risk,” Dawson said.  “A lottery keeps Alabama in the past and preys on those who can least afford it with math that fails to add up and leaves states like Illinois unable to pay their winners.  With responsible budgeting, rewards for hard work, and common-sense initiatives in our classrooms, we will launch Alabama into future where everyone can win.”

Lotteries generally appeal to the people who lack the education and the mental ability to grasp basic mathematical statistical probabilities.  The concept is popular with some voters because it is not a tax.  The limiting factor however with any legalized form of gambling is that there is a finite number of gambling addicts to exploit; which more and more of the revenue has to be used to promote the game of chance to draw gamblers in to the games.

Maddox, the Mayor of Tuscaloosa said, “As Governor, I will use the power of the office to focus on creating a 21st Century educational system to help prepare our children for competition in the technological age before us.”  “The creation of the Alabama Education Lottery will provide $300 million without raising taxes one penny.”

The current education trust fund budget is over $6.6 billion so even if the lottery was wildly successful and met these targets that would amount to little over a 4.5 percent increase for education.

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Based on the economic growth over the last four years, the ETF budget will likely increase by more than that without adding any new revenue stream.  Where the state suffers from lack of revenue growth is in the state general fund budget–where prisons, law enforcement, the courts, mental health, and Alabama Medicaid have been largely underfunded for over a decade–where revenues have not kept up with the growth in program needs, particularly in the struggling Medicaid program.

Former Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court Sue Bell Cobb released her lottery plan two weeks ago.

“I am not naive enough to believe the lottery is the total answer for all of our budget woes,” Cobb said. “The leadership in Montgomery has been playing shell games for years, robbing Peter to pay Paul, while trying to distract us with hot-button issues intended to keep us fighting with each other. I will not pretend that scratching-off tickets and Powerball drawings are a magic wand, but if we spend the money how I have proposed, we can change Alabama forever. I promise that lottery revenue will be spent only on the future of Alabama’s children and accounted for down to the penny. I will appoint citizens of the highest integrity to be in charge. No lottery is going to fix the mess in Montgomery, but under my plan, it will stay out of the hands of politicians, so it can help families build a better future for their children.”

Scott Dawson is a popular evangelist from the Greater Birmingham area.  Dawson faces a crowded Republican Primary field that includes: State Senator Bill Hightower, Governor Kay Ivey, Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, and Michael McAllister.

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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