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Candidates share views on lottery

Whichever candidate is elected to the District 89 seat in the Alabama House of Representatives may soon be deciding on whether to initiate a state lottery – or at least whether to let the people vote on it.

Democratic candidate Joel Williams, local attorney, said he is not completely opposed to the idea of a state lottery, but he does see some issues that could arise from one.

“I’m not sold on the lottery; I have some problems with it,” Williams said. “For one thing, I don’t think it would raise much money. It might bring in about $100 million, which seems like a lot, but when you look at the (education) budget it’s like 2 percent. That’s not going to solve our problems.”

There have been numerous attempts in Alabama in recent years to have a state lottery in some shape or fashion.

In August 2016, then-governor Robert Bentley held a special session in an attempt to put the issue before voters in the November 2016 election. That lottery was originally designed to generate revenue solely for the general fund. By the time it got through revisions, 10 percent would have been allocated to education. The amendment never made it out of the Legislature to be considered by voters.

In February, a Senate committee passed another bill proposing that Alabama join multistate lotteries such as Mega Millions and the Powerball, but again failed to gain traction.

Walt Maddox, Democratic candidate for governor, has unveiled his own plan to establish a state lottery, which he estimates would bring in $300 million each year, and direct all revenue towards the Education Trust Fund. If Maddox were to become Alabama’s next governor, he said he would call a special session to attempt to pass the lottery bill.

Williams said he doesn’t expect a lottery to bring in as much as estimated and said there are other problems with a lottery.

“I think it is going to bring in a lot less money than is estimated,” Williams said. “It’s not going to be the $300 million we would need to make an impact. It’s also regressive; the people who would be mostly paying for it are the ones who could least afford it.”

Williams said the other major issue for him is that people will believe the lottery should solve all of the state’s education woes, making it harder to take other political actions that can positively impact the budget.

“I’m not saying I would oppose a lottery, but it’s not a magic pill,” Williams said.

Republican candidate Wes Allen said there have been so many different proposals for a state lottery in recent years that he can’t say how he would vote until he has a specific proposal in front of him.

“I would have to look at the specific proposal, consider the merits of the specific bill, how it impacts District 89 and then hear from the constituents of District 89,” Allen said.­­

Allen and Williams will compete for the District 89 seat on Tuesday, November 6. The polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Photo identification will be required.20