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Sparks speaks to democrats

Commissioner of Agriculture Ron Sparks, who is running for Alabama governor in 2010, spoke to the Chilton County Democratic Club about education, healthcare and gambling Tuesday night.

Sparks started the evening by saying how much he enjoys attending Chilton County’s annual Peach Festival.

“It’s always been a pleasure to come up and visit with folks and share in the festivities,” Sparks said.

The conversation then turned to more serious topics, like improving the state’s aging infrastructure, funding schools and taking care of seniors.

“In Alabama, we are broke,” said Sparks. “The state of Alabama is at an economic crisis we have never seen before.”

Sparks talked about needing to upgrade and build new roads and bridges.

“It’s not an expense; it’s an investment,” he said.

He also focused on Alabama’s public school system. He said he is against charter schools and thinks more kids should have access to Pre-K learning opportunities.

“Every child in Alabama deserves a quality education. I don’t care if you live in Wilcox County or Mountain Brook,” Sparks said.

He proposed funding these programs through an educational lottery to pay for college scholarships and by taxing casinos and regulating other gambling.

“I have no intent to tax you, taxpayers, or businesses in Alabama,” said Sparks. “…We are going to tax gambling, and we are going to spend that money on our children’s education.”

Sparks asked the room at Kountry Kitchen if anybody believes gambling is not going on in Alabama. He said millions of dollars are going to neighboring states.

“Whether you are for or against it, millions of dollars are going to be spent on the lottery,” he said. The difference, he says, is “not a penny will go to Alabama.”