Poll reveals Alabamians may favor lottery

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 22, 2002

&uot;Don't tax you, don't tax me; tax that fellow behind the tree.&uot;

I don't remember when I first heard this saying but it seems somewhat appropriate with reference to the lottery proposal being debated in the gubernatorial campaign. The lottery does that in the sense that it is a voluntary tax of sorts.

A new poll by the Mobile Register and The University of South Alabama reported that 75 percent of the people who were asked their position on a lottery said they would favor it if the revenue goes solely for education.

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This is astonishing to me. I just got back from visiting central Florida and all along the Interstate highways are signs advertising treatment for gambling addiction. The U.S. News and World Report magazine recently carried statistics on the increase in crime in those states that allow gambling. It just doesn't make sense to me that we want to get into that kind of &uot;trap&uot; when we don't have to.

I have to believe that some Alabamians see the lottery as &uot;taxing the fellow behind the tree&uot; and avoiding an anticipated tax on himself or herself.

There are probably some also who see a lottery as a cure-all for buoying up education in our state. The constant threat of proration and continued tight budgets lend support to the idea of needing a quick fix for education.

Several decades ago Alabamians no doubt thought sales tax and income tax n our present sources for funding education n were stable, reliable sources. Look at what has happened to this funding in times of crisis such as we have experienced lately. Who's to say that a lottery would not be subject to the same plight.

I am simply saying we should look long and hard at implementing a lottery if our reasoning is that it will solve our tax revenue problems. A better approach, in my opinion, would be to examine our current tax structure and find a way to stabilize the tax base.

It may be that we need to eliminate some taxes and add others. I feel we are already over-taxed, so my goal would be to make taxes fairer n not increase taxes.

I recently read of a rebellion that took place outside of the Tennessee Statehouse when lawmakers in that state were considering an income tax for Tennesseans who presently have no tax on income. The vote was close, but it failed largely due to the citizens' protests.

In our state several local education property tax initiatives have failed in recent years. Citizens are saying they do not want more taxes.

That's a signal to me that true tax reform that is fair and equitable would be the only solution acceptable to the public. No more of this crisis crisis management approach.

A good start would be for the two gubernatorial candidates to come forward with their respective versions of tax reform. One of them will be the leader of our state for the next four years and no area of government needs more leadership than this. If the right plan is put forth n and by that I mean one which is fair and equitable n there will be no need for a questionable solution such as a lottery.

Until next week, remember &uot;I'll go with you or I'll go for you&uot; to help you solve any problem related to state government.