By Patrick F. Dye
I have something that has been weighing heavily on my mind and my heart these last few weeks: the Alabama budget crisis. Now, most of you read that line, laughed and asked yourself “why does an old football coach give a darn about the budget crisis?” The answer is simple – Alabama is my home. I have loved Alabama since Coach Bryant gave me my first coaching job in 1965. I spent the best years of my life in Auburn, and now I live in Macon County, but only 12 miles from the stadium. So it saddens me to see the state I love facing this crisis. I have read articles, listened to the news and studied our options: (1) Governor Bentley’s massive tax hike; (2) the House GOP austerity budget; (3) the loan from the Poarch Creek Indians, and (4) Senator Marsh’s lottery and gaming plan. The best answer looks pretty obvious to me and that’s why I want to ask the citizens of Alabama to fully support Senator March’s lottery and gaming plan.
Governor Bentley’s tax hike is not the right answer. Many people in the State of Alabama are already struggling financially and those tax hikes will just be passed on to those same struggling people. Plus, we do not get to vote on any of those tax increases. The House GOP budget is just as bad. Under the proposed budget cuts, the State will not be able to provide necessary services to its citizens and many State employees will lose their jobs. Also, our poorly funded education system is an example of the many other problems from Alabama’s ongoing budgetary struggles.
The Poarch Creek plan does not create a single job and is a $250 million loan that would have to be repaid in two to four years. Now, I’m no finance guy, but how would Alabama repay a loan to the Poarch Creek Indians when we cannot even repay the loan the Legislature guaranteed from the Alabama Trust Fund just three short years ago? I publically [sic] opposed meddling with the Trust Fund at the time because it was a temporary fix with little chance for repayment.
If I told you I had a plan to solve Alabama’s budget crisis that would not raise taxes, would create 11,000 jobs, and would create $400 million in new revenue, wouldn’t you choose that plan? Senator Marsh’s lottery and gaming bill does just that: new revenue, 11, 000 jobs, and we get to vote on it. Our citizens already flood over the state line to Florida, Georgia, Tennessee and Mississippi to play the lottery. Alabama citizens spend millions on gaming every year – they just spend it down the road in other states. The current bill limits gaming to four locations, regulates it and heavily taxes it. Using our four existing race tracks makes good business sense – other states already do it and the racetracks have the facilities, experience and manpower to immediately begin offering games and immediately begin paying taxes.
From a coaching standpoint, these surrounding states have a tremendous advantage in their athletic programs due to the lottery and gaming revenues that are allocated to scholarships that support talented athletes who might not otherwise attend college. But this is just a minuscule concern. The real losers in this crisis are the Alabama public schools and its students who, compared to surrounding states, are at a significant disadvantage when it comes to receiving much needed educational tax dollars.
I’m asking all of you to join me in supporting Marsh’s lottery and gaming bill SB453. Call your legislators, like I have, and tell them you want them to support SB453. Remind them that THEY are not voting in favor of gambling, but in giving YOU the right to vote on the issue.