I am opposed to casino gambling and a lottery in Alabama. My opposition has nothing to do with sin or religion. It has everything to with conservative principles of good government.
I do not like stampedes, yet in six months we have gone from an election where taxes and revenue were not an issue and gambling was being pushed only by the losers to the probability of a gambling referendum proposed for September 15 of this year. Now our governor and Republican leaders in the legislature tell us we have a budget crisis that can only be fixed by raising taxes or by getting more revenue from gambling. These issues should have been brought up a year ago and discussed during the campaigns which culminated in the June primary and November general elections. Leaders who were not perceptive enough to see or brave enough to discuss the problems then are suspect for chicanery and mendacity and they should not expect voters to quickly fall for this new story.
Gambling (lottery and casino gaming) will redirect as much as $2 billion (1 percent of the Alabama Gross State Product), likely forever. Gambling may create some jobs while it will certainly destroy other jobs. Deciding such a major change should not be hurried.
Gambling will stall much needed reform of the state budget process. Without real reform which enables setting priorities of needs, we cannot really know what the revenue requirements of the state actually are. We must:
- Enact a No More Surprises Budget Act to require multi-year budget planning so that issues are identified well in advance. A five-year plan is necessary to assure that we have no more day-after-the election bombshells.
- Combine the state’s general fund, education, roads, and other budgets.
- End budget earmarks.
- Have legislators and members of congress work together to identify and implement federal problem prevention and problem solutions, e.g., unconditional block grants for federal Medicaid funds which would fix our funding issues for that program.
Gambling revenue will grow government and stall initiatives for more efficient and smaller government. More revenue necessarily means bigger government. More revenue means that few programs will be eliminated or reformed, e.g., state employee pension and benefits are a large and growing problem, the state is struggling to get out of the retail liquor business.
Gambling revenue will give the governor and legislature an excuse to not review and account for a state economy that is not producing any significant job growth.
Gambling is fraught with cronyism. For example, Senator Marsh’s draft legislation selects four race track owners and the small Poarch Creek band of Indians for exclusive control of casino gaming. There is no apparent need for such favoritism and elitism.
Gambling is fraught with corruption, e.g., the infamous Milton McGregor trial of 2012 shows gambling powers are ever ready to buy legislators and government employees to get what they want. This is why so much government regulation is applied to it to try to prevent gambling powers from buying government favors.
The state should not be involved in gambling because it requires glamorization of gaming which discourages citizens from learning, industriousness, saving, investing, and paying their own way.
I could be receptive to gambling at some time, but I am not now and I am not likely to ever be so with a governor and legislative leaders I do not trust. And if we expand gambling, the state authorization for it should periodically be reaffirmed by voters. Every ten years or so would be about right. This would provide necessary accountability and force a public review of how promises compare to results.
What is my solution for the so-called budget crisis? I described that when I wrote about reforming the state’s budget process. Effect that reform and we will be able to prioritize needs and have an informed discussion and debate on whether state government needs more revenue and, if we determine it does, how that revenue should be produced. In particular, we should help put Alabama back to work by killing the corporate income tax.
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