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New taxes from gambling?

With state educators staring down the barrel of proration, the Alabama Education Association wants legislators and Gov. Bob Riley to target the gambling industry as a source for new tax revenue.

“I can understand the moral opposition to gambling, I feel it too, but we have not been successful at stopping it from coming into our state, and we won’t be able to stop gaming from operating here,” said Dr. Paul Hubbert, executive secretary for the AEA.

According to a report in The Huntsville Times, Alabama is No. 46 in revenue raised from gambling. The state collected $377,824 from gambling last year from a one percent tax on dog racetrack owners, said The Times.

The AEA devoted a bulk of the front page of its Dec. 1 publication, The Alabama School Journal, promoting taxing the gambling industry. The story was headlined “Alabama’s Biggest Industry That Doesn’t Pay Taxes.”

Butler County Superintendent Mike Looney said he was opposed to gambling, but would not rule out supporting it as a source of revenue for schools.

“I suspect as the seriousness of the state’s financial shortfall becomes more clear to the average citizen, a number of remedies, strategies, and solutions will be considered. We are scared…real scared about the state’s ability to provide adequate funding to local school systems,” he said. “However, I understand that it is ultimately up to the taxpayers of Alabama to determine how much they value producing quality – workforce ready graduates.”

Looney said the problem with funding based on sales tax is that it’s volatile, fluctuating with the ups and downs of the economy.

“It is literally feast or famine and this year and next it looks like we are on a bread and water diet,” he said.

A spokesperson for Riley told the The Times the governor has no knowledge of legislators trying to tax gambling.