By Rodger Smitherman
The Alabama Legislature did not approve lottery legislation that would have provided millions to fund our Medicaid shortfall and additional education needs in this state. But it’s imperative that we get this money in place for the sake of all of Alabama.
The Senate approved Legislation that would have given voters in November the opportunity to support a lottery that would have produced $100 million to bolster our Medicaid program which serves about 1 million Alabamians. More than half of the recipients are children. In addition to providing much needed health care to some of our most vulnerable citizens, the lottery would also help fund scholarships, additional teachers and support personnel in our schools and more computers for our children.
Unfortunately, the House made changes in the legislation that were not acceptable and would not satisfy the long-term, comprehensive needs of Alabamians. There were even some who purposely acted to delay so that would not appear on the November General Election. The fear is that placing the lottery on the ballot would increase the participation of Democrats in the election, something that could be troubling in places like Jefferson County, where there are strong partisan contests.
We must do better. We cannot let the people of Alabama down, especially when the only reason for doing so is to inject partisan politics. When we return to the special session on Sept. 6, all lawmakers must come determined to do what’s best for Alabama.
Our task this week is deciding on a spending plan for the more than $1 billion in BP settlement funds from the 2010 spill. This can help shore up Medicaid until we get a more permanent fix established.
It is also imperative that we continue to work to find additional funds for education. Every day we fail to adequately support our children and our educators with state funds, we chisel away a foundation that can support economic development and an enhanced quality of life for the people we have been elected to represent.
Rodger Smitherman is a state senator representing Birmingham’s District 18.