By Alton Mitchell
Alabama is once again eyeing the possibility of bringing a state sponsored lottery to the state. A lottery in Alabama is not anything new and has been voted down by Alabama voters a little over a decade ago. However recent budget problems and the need to generate extra revenue has come to the forefront as state officials including Governor Robert Bentley have begun a charge to see if it is possible to get a possible vote on the ballot for this November’s election.
Many neighboring states have state sponsored lotteries including nearby Georgia. Georgia has used its lottery funds to aid in public educational programs including the Hope Scholarships and Hope Grant programs which allow Georgia students to attend institutions of higher learning with funds obtained from the state lottery. Many Alabamians make weekly trips to border communities in Georgia and Florida to purchase lottery tickets assisting those states in improved quality of living for their residents.
Alabama hopes to use the funds from the state lottery to improve funding for state Medicaid and prison budgeting issues. Over the past several years budget shortfalls have left some Alabama programs looking for cash. These shortfalls were felt months ago in Chambers County as the state closed the local driver’s license office in a cost saving measure that was met with statewide criticism and eventually the office was reopened.
The idea of a lottery in Alabama is being met with criticism from many groups who don’t think it is the right way for the state to obtain funds for programs. However Governor Bentley and many state officials are trying to get a lottery billed passed. The bill must be passed in a swift manner no later than August 24th so the legislation could make it on the November ballot and allow local voters to vote on the measure.
In order for Alabama to have a lottery it must be voted on by the people. The general fund budget for the state is set to take effect on October 1st of this year. For Medicaid there is a major budget shortfall of $85 million that is less than what the agency says it needs to operate effectively. In a cost saving measure Alabama Medicaid will be reducing reimbursements to physicians who accept the plan beginning on Augusts 1st. That move is expected to save the agency about $15 million. If approved in November by voters it could be just a matter of weeks or months before Alabamians begin to see lottery style games in the stat