To begin with, I have serious reservations - and had at the time, I voted against the state lottery - about using gambling money to fund our education system. Our education system is a major and mission-critical investment for the future of this state, we should be funding it out of normal revenues. We as a state should not be profiting off gambling, which at its worst destroys lives.
The sad fact is that our state government regards the school system as a drag on it, and never misses an opportunity to cut education funding - as they've done in the current crisis. This is why, in case you wondered, California has so many ballot initiatives locking in education spending. It's because we can't trust the Lege (as Molly Ivins used to call it in Texas) to fund it properly.
Now they want to do two colossally stupid things:
- They want to borrow $5 billion (that's with a B, folks) against future lottery revenues, and put the entire amount into this year's operating budget.
- They want to remove the requirement that lottery money go directly to the schools. If this passes, schools will be funded from the general fund. They'll get "approximately" the $1 billion a year they get now, adjusted in future for inflation and student population.
First, as far as I'm concerned, the lottery's only moral justification is to fund the education system. If we aren't using the money for education - and if this passes we won't be - then we should not be in the lottery business.
Second, they want to borrow money for operating expenses. This means the state will be paying down that $5 billion that we use to run the state this year, for the next thirty years, out of the lottery profits. The two objections to this are:
- Borrowing money for operating expenses is colossally stupid (ask anybody who did a cash-out refi to finance a vacation, or a flat-screen TV), and
- What happens if the lottery doesn't produce enough revenue to pay down the bonds? Nobody discusses this, but the proposal commits the state to pay $400 million a year for 30 years out of lottery revenues. But lottery sales have been "anemic," according to the article. Only addicted gamblers will buy lottery tickets if they're out of work; everybody else cuts back. And a lot of people are out of work. If the lottery doesn't produce that $400 million a year, who does? We do, folks. Us taxpayers.
There's an old military joke about the general who turns to his aide and says, "Bring me a rock." So the aide goes out, looks around, picks up a rock and comes back. And the general says, "Wrong rock." The legislature's carefully hammered solution to the budget crisis is the wrong rock. If we defeat these propositions, they'll have to have another emergency session to do it again; and I'm sorry, but I think they should. I can't support Prop. 1C.