An Open Letter to Gov. Henry
Among the things I listed in my Tulsa World column "Some Things Are More Stupid Than Others!" is the notion that the lottery is good for Oklahoma. I stated, "My observations at this stage of life of what I see is really, really stupid here in Oklahoma. Listed, but not necessarily in this order of priority, are the following: the Oklahoma Lottery..." And then I listed other troubles. The article continued:
Mark your calendar for the year 2010 and compare the present Oklahoma education budget to the budget this year. Yes, the funds allocated from the lottery will go exclusively to education. Guess what? The actual budgeted expenditures will be a fraction of the lottery contributions. Beneficial to education? Hardly! We can already see the social cost.
Here we are in Oklahoma with the distinction of having the most casinos outside of Nevada. I was a visiting professor in Guadalajara, Mexico, Instituto Techologico y de Estudios Suraffle on a fleet of cars and made millions. My guess is that 95 percent went straight into the university coffers. Oklahomans, we have been sold down the river with the lottery. That's stupid.
In his Tulsa World editorial, "Repeal the state lottery? Not likely" (April 1, 2007), David Averill stated,
The lottery proposal overwhelmingly approved by voters on Nov. 2, 2004, was originally projected to generate $413 million in ticket sales its first year. In December 2006, after a few months sales experience, the Lottery Commission scaled back that admittedly optimistic projection to $244 million. State education's share is 30 percent of ticket sales during the first two years, 35 percent after that. The revised sales projections meant that Oklahoma education would receive $83.6 million [in 2007].
Sales in 2008 are expected to be $208.2 million with $71.6 million going to education. According to World Capitol Bureau reporter Angel Riggs, "So far, the 18-month-old lottery has contributed more than $104 million to Oklahoma education, lottery officials say."
The June 13, 2007, Tulsa World editorial ("Budget Blunder: Colleges Left Holding the Bag") stated, "State lottery proceeds fell short of the amount needed to make payments on a 2005 higher education capital improvements bond issue and law makers failed to appropriate money to colleges and universities to make up the difference" (p. A12). The September 24, 2007, editorial ("Lottery Projections: Have They Created Budget Chaos?") stated, "State Senate co-President Pro Tem Glenn Coffee of Oklahoma City, one of the GOP critics, said that inaccurate lottery revenue projections have created chaos in budgeting for common and higher education and Career Tech" (A15).
In the January 2, 2008, Tulsa World ("Bigger Lottery Prizes a Success Elsewhere"), Angel Riggs stated, "But critics, already skeptical of lottery projections, aren't convinced that cutting the mandated profit will lead to more sales" (A15). In addition, "The lottery is expected to generate nearly $72 million to education this fiscal year, based on anticipated sales of more than $208 million ("Prize Fix: Lottery Tweaking Needed," Tulsa World, A20). Barbara Hoberock reported, "Senate Co-President Pro Tem Glenn Coffee, R-Oklahoma City, said inaccurate projections about lottery profits have created chaos in budgeting for higher education, common education and Career Tech" ("Lottery Mandate Stirs Debate," September 20, 2007, Tulsa World, D1).
Here we are starting 2008, and the lottery is not on target.
The lottery has failed education and created all kinds of personal problems for the citizens of Oklahoma. Sandy Garrett has proposed a solution: "Arrange for the money to go to school districts without first passing it through the Legislature" ("It's school money," January 21, 2008, Tulsa World, p. A13).
In the January 12, 2008, Tulsa World ("Send Lottery Funds Directly to Schools, Garrett Proposes"), Angel Ross reported,
State Superintendent Sandy Garrett said Thursday that lottery funds raised for Oklahoma schools should be given directly to each district, rather than allowing the Legislature to determine how the money is spent. . . . Under Garrett's proposal, school districts would receive a check directly from the lottery. The amount could be based on the district's average daily attendance.
This is an excellent idea.
Finally, Ken Neal's Tulsa World editorial ("Playing the Lottery," November 25, 2007, G6) sums this all up:
The New York Times recently reported that there are lotteries in 42 sates, most of them sold as a way to "fund" education.
The Times found that the lotteries accounted for a few percentage points of school budgets. No state got more than 5 percent of total school spending from lotteries.
According to the Times, the Sooner state got a whopping half percent of its education money from the lottery.
In September, the World calculated that the money tat finally trickled down to education was a little more than 2 percent of the nearly $4 billion spent on all phases of education in Oklahoma. But whether a half percent or more than 2 percent, the portion of school financing provided by the lottery is piddling.
That's not a surprise. . . .The constitutional amendment that Oklahomans approved by nearly 2-1 contains this language: The Legislature "shall not use funds from the Trust Fund to supplant or replace other state funds supporting common education, higher education and career and technology education."
But it looks as though the lawmakers are doing that very thing.
Education's share of state appropriations has declined from 37.5 percent to 35.5 percent, including the lottery and by about the same percentage not considering the lottery. . . . After the disaster of overestimating lottery funds last year, state officials dropped the estimate of lottery income from $111 million to $77 million for fiscal 2008.
This is exactly what I said in my original Tulsa World news column. Oklahomans have been duped, scammed, and cheated. The money issue is only a token of the social cost that gambling has on individuals and families.
What is the answer? Proverbs 22:3 states, "A wise man sees danger and a fool goes his merry way." Let's get rid of the lottery!
R. Henry Migliore
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