Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Bobcast: Whole lotto college

Latest Bobcast is up. Listen here or read below.

The ongoing Don Siegelman legal saga is a reminder of a missed lottery opportunity for Alabama.

The federal corruption case against the former governor centers on a contribution made to Siegelman’s pro-lottery war chest. Prosecutors claimed and a jury agreed that the contributor's loot came in exchange for a seat on a state medical board.

The case is on appeal, but that’s a story for another day.

Our concern for now is 1999’s state lottery vote. Siegelman campaigned in 1998’s gubernatorial race on delivering to Alabama what neighbor Georgia already had – namely, a lottery that funded college scholarships for Georgia high school grads.

Since 1993 when the Georgia lottery began, the state has helped more than 1.2 million students with $4.5 billion in college tuition.

The idea is spreading. In 2002, South Carolina implemented a similar lot-tery/scholarship plan. It’s been reported than in seven years schools there have received $2 billion in lottery proceeds.

If things had worked out differently in '99, Alabama would have had a lottery. It would have also opened college to tens of thousands of the state’s residents who might otherwise not have attended. That would have been good for students, state colleges and over time all residents, who reap benefits from a better educated state.

Alabama chose another path. It said "no" in 1999. Problem is it hasn’t said yes to a more viable and lucrative funding proposal for college or college students in the intervening 10 years.