Alabama Legislator Proposes State Lottery

Alabama voters rejected a state lottery 15 years ago, but House Minority Leader Craig Ford (l.) introduced a measure to let voters decide the issue once again. Ford said the lottery would be a "voluntary tax" that people do not have to pay.

Alabama House Minority Leader Craig Ford recently introduced a bill that would let voters statewide decide if they want a lottery. Ford said he considers the lottery to be a “voluntary tax” that people are not required to pay. Proceeds would be directed to the state’s struggling Medicaid program.

Republican House Ways and Means General Fund Chairman Steve Clouse has signed on as a co-sponsor of the bill. He said a lottery should offers an option that could help the state’s revenue-challenged General Fund.

Voters rejected a state lottery 15 years ago, with 60 percent turnout at the polls. Then, like now, rural legislators and their religiously fundamental constituents form the majority of the opposition. Political analyst Jess Brown said, “I do think that you’ve got some members of the legislature that are not thrilled about the possibility that if they vote for some gambling of any sort that it may come back to haunt them later in a Republican primary.” However, he noted lottery revenues would make little difference in solving Alabama’s education funding or general fund predicaments. Brown said recent projections indicated state lottery revenues could reach $80 million a year, while the general fund needs up to $280 million for the next fiscal year alone.

Under Alabama law, three-fifths or a 60 percent super majority in the House and Senate would be required to pass a constitutional amendment allowing a state lottery before voters could go to the polls.