Alabama Sen. Jim McClendon, R-Springville, laid out a competing proposal Tuesday to Gov. Robert Bentley's plan to institute a statewide lottery as a means to addressing Alabama's budget shortfall. McClendon is still working on the details of the bill so he did not have a copy available.
His plan expands on Bentley's by allowing for electronic lottery terminals — devices similar to slot machines — to be installed in Birmingham, Mobile, and Greene and Macon Counties. The terminals would raise $127 million in revenue a year, while proceeds from a statewide and Powerball lottery would inject $285 million to $310 million a year into state coffers, the senator said.
"There are simply thousands of children in Alabama who can't afford health care through no fault of their own," McClendon told a news conference at the Alabama State House. He stressed that his proposal doesn't pave the way for casino gambling in the state, and his bill also doesn't authorize bingo.
Besides the terminals, McClendon's lottery proposal would earmark $100 million toward education with the balance directed toward the state's general fund. Bentley's bill — expected to generate $225 million in revenue a year — has all proceeds going to the general fund.
The senator's plan would also create a bond issue paid off with expected gambling proceeds. The bonds would be used to solve the $85 million shortfall in the 2017 Medicaid budget, he said.
"It can be an immediate payment," McClendon said.
His bill also establishes a lottery commission that would be formed within 60 days of the bill's passage, which McClendon said means that the state would see lottery revenue quicker than Bentley's plan, which expects the funds to be available within a year.
McClendon said he doesn't necessarily have a preference as to whether his bill or Bentley's — which is believed to have a better chance of passing — gets through the legislature, as long as one of them does.
"I'd support either plan or a hybrid.... I hope [the governor's bill] makes it through. That will be fine with me," he said, adding, "I want to get this lottery issue before the people. I want to do something about the sick kids getting medical care."
Either way, McClendon said his hope is that a lottery referendum goes before the voters on Election Day instead of holding a special election, which he said would cost $3.1 million and would have much lower turnout.