October 19, 1999
We still don't understand exactly where in the Bible it says Thou shalt not gamble. The closest authoritarian statement we can find is by Albert Einstein, who said God does not play dice. Einstein never suggested that we should not.
Last week Alabama voters said no to Governor Don Siegelman's proposed education lottery. Pastors from Ashland to Wetumpka proclaimed to the faithful that gambling is immoral, and urged them to vote down the lottery amendment.
“I have no plan B,'' Siegelman lamented after the vote. For the past nine months he had worked tirelessly for a lottery that would finally raise Alabama from 50th place in per capita spending on education. “My plan was on the table yesterday. Now my door is open, my mind is open, my arms are open, for any of those people who want to come in and offer suggestions on how we can improve education for our children.''
Here is our suggestion: Work tirelessly to reform the tax structure in Alabama. It would be risky. In 1990 Siegelman ran for governor and lost on a platform of tax reform. But now, ten years later, the situation is different. Religious groups that opposed the lottery are hurting from the criticism that they are essentially a negative force without an alternative plan. Meanwhile, taxes in Alabama, particularly sales tax on food, are hurting the poor. The revenue from fairly apportioned taxes would pay for educational program and much more.
If lottery opponents, including Lieut. Gov. Steve Windom, dodge a call from Siegelman to help reform taxes in the state, it will at least be great fun to watch them do it.
-- Dan Silver
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