Let wasted money help education

Published 5:40 pm Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Gov. Bob Riley on Monday announced that lower-than-expected tax collections would force the state to impose proration of 12.5 percent on the state education budget for fiscal year 2009.

The cut is the largest our state has seen since 1961 and is the second largest since the Great Depression, according to The Associated Press. It is further proof, as if any was needed, of how desperate the state’s and the country’s financial situations have become. And, as they say, desperate times call for desperate measures.

Sen. Hank Sanders, D-Selma, and Rep. Richard Lindsey, D-Centre, told AP that the state Legislature should look at gambling taxes when it convenes Feb. 3.

“It’s a serious problem that we don’t get any state revenue from bingo,” Sanders said about what would be the main target of a potential bill.

We couldn’t agree more. When the income doesn’t equal the expenditures, either services get cut (as we’re seeing now) or new sources of revenue have to be found. We’ve seen the former solution plenty of times before, and it never gets easier. Sanders said he expects economic conditions to worsen before they improve. He predicted the FY2010 budget could be $600 million to $800 million short of this year’s budget.

Last year, a bill that would have allowed dog tracks in Birmingham and Mobile to add electronic bingo in return for paying a tax on the machines at those two locations fell one vote short of passage in the House.

We hope officials would rather tax electronic bingo machines than increase income or sales taxes, which would only increase the plight of the middle- and lower-class residents. Instead, why not tax the people who seem to have money to throw away (or into a bingo machine)?

In fact, a gaming tax may not even be a desperate act. It seems more like common sense.