Opinion: State lottery is legislature’s latest cash grab

Posted on Aug 29 2018 - 5:50am by Will Hall

Yesterday the Mississippi State Legislature convened for a final special session to discuss — among other issues pertaining to the allocation of funds from the Deepwater Horizon settlement — the failing condition of the roads they rode to work on. After a chaotic set of deliberations, the Mississippi Republican establishment came to the conclusion that the best way it could salvage our failing roads and bridges would be through the introduction of a state lottery.

After decades of grandstanding, mounting arguments that the consequences of such legislation would create an increased burden on working families and even suggesting that the introduction of such legislation would invoke the wrath of the Savior himself, the legislature finally caved.

Agreeing to convene for two additional days to address the legislation’s numerous problems — ranging from the initial proposal that the state lottery commission would be external from the authority of the Public Records and Open Meeting Acts to the suggestion of allowing truck stop gaming — lawmakers finalized a bill which promises to allocate $200 million to Mississippi’s infrastructure needs with increased state oversight.

From increasing access to liquor to raising tobacco taxes and even going so far as to legalize sports gambling, with the promise to shore up our state’s education system, Mississippi has spent the last century refusing to sober up from its cash-induced haze and mumbling to voters that if they get one more hit, they’ll finally beat the table while walking away to spend billions on other projects.

The fact of the matter is that Mississippi will never solve its problems by introducing new ways to rob its citizens of their hard earned money when all it knows how to do is waste taxpayer funds on frivolous and corrupt public works projects.

Remember those amphitheatres in Brandon and DeSoto County that the legislature promised would bring millions to the state economy? What about the $24.5 million dollars in taxpayer aid given to the Mississippi Aquarium currently being built on the coast or the $274 million in taxpayer guaranteed bonds for the failed Kemper County Facility? Imagine if we spent that money on our outdated roads and bridges or even our vastly under-funded public schools.

I find it a bit hard to believe that we’ve invested in Mississippi’s whales more than we’ve invested in the roads and bridges Mississippians travel on every single day. Yet when you understand the Mississippi establishment’s addiction to cash, it doesn’t come as a surprise.

Instead of introducing the lottery, what if our lawmakers prioritized eliminating its agenda, which is centered on eliminating wasteful spending, reforming the welfare state and living within our means? (Yet I understand that in Jackson this would come as a truly radical proposal.)

To the legislators who spent decades preaching about the consequences of what Governor Bryant described as a “silly notion” just two years ago: What was it that led you away from standing in the way of the lottery on convictions of faith for decades? Was it a directive from the prophet, or was it merely profit itself?