The state of Alabama has been struggling to raise sufficient funds to take care of basic services and for over a decade has had to borrow heavily and make use of one time funds to pay for these services. Governor Robert Bentley recently announced that he believes one of the best ways for the state to generate funds is to legalize the state lottery. Gov. Bentley is expected to schedule a special session where the proposal will be discussed by the legislature.
Voters in Alabama could end up voting for a new president in November and whether they want the state lottery to be legalized. Gov. Bentley has not yet confirmed what date he wants the special session to be held but is expected to make an announcement before the end of this week. The state lottery is expected to generate around $225 million each year and the government plans to use these funds to support General Fund Programs that focus on helping the mentally ill, child services, law enforcement and those in need of urgent relief.
Gov. Bentley is yet to share any specifics on the state lottery proposal but believes that it is the best solution for Alabama’s budget woes. The governor also confirmed that his proposal was only for a state lottery and did not include any other forms of gambling. He remains confident that voters in Alabama would approve of the state lottery since his proposal does not involve raising their individual taxes or continuing to increase its debt to fund basic services.
Sen. Quinton Ross, D-Montgomery wants the governor to also include other forms of gambling in his proposal and allow voters to make the final decision. In a statement, Ross said “We need to benefit from the millions of dollars spent by Alabamians who patronize other states through their gaming facilities and lotteries; and we agree with Gov. Bentley that it is time to allow the people of Alabama to decide the issue once and for all by allowing them to vote.”
The last time Alabama voted on a state lottery was seventeen years ago when Gov. Don Siegelman proposed a state lottery. Gov. Bentley believes that if voters had approved the state lottery back, a significant amount of funds could have been generated over the years to fund scholarships and technology developments for schools and pre-kindergarten. The biggest concern for the government at this point of time is generating sufficient funds for its Alabama Medicaid Agency.
Lawmakers overruled Gov. Bentley’s veto earlier this year and borrowed $700 million from the General Fund to support Medicaid. The Governor states that Medicaid will require another $785 million, funds which the state does not have and this is one of the main reasons why the state lottery could be a long term solution.The Governor needs three fifth of the legislation to agree with his proposal for it to be approved and House chairman, Rep. Steve Clouse, R-Ozark believes that a number of legislators will agree with the governor making it a very close vote.