JACKSON, Miss. —
Mississippi could see a huge influx of new tax revenue if Mississippi lawmakers approve a bill to establish a state lottery.
The proposal, which comes up in the state legislature frequently, gained momentum when for the first time, Gov. Phil Bryant showed his support.
“We can no longer contain the people’s desire for a lottery,” Bryant said during his State of the State address.
But the question remains: Where would all the money from a new lottery go?
Longtime state Rep. Alyce Clarke, a Democrat from Jackson, has been fighting for years to start a lottery.
“I think it should go to education,” Clarke said. “But in as much as when we earmark money, sometimes we take that money from that department, so with that in mind, the best thing would be to just put it in the general fund.”
“I think the money should all be earmarked directly for public education, K-12,” said Rep. Jay Hughes, a Democrat from Oxford. “They do amazing things with so little, and we can’t continue to underfund them and expect to move out of 50th place.”
Many Mississippi residents travel to Louisiana to bet on Powerball. By law, at least 35 percent of Louisiana’s lotto revenue must go to public schools. Last year, they got $177 million. According to Tennessee’s website, the lottery there has raised $4 billion for education.
“We watch every year, millions of Mississippi money going to our neighboring states,” Hughes said. “Why do we keep giving our money to Louisiana, Tennessee and Arkansas instead of funding our schools in Mississippi?”
Mississippi is one of only four states that don’t have a lottery. A House bill to create it survived a last-minute deadline last week.
“When we get it passed, we’re going to have somebody to sit down and take a really close look at where it needs to go (and) where it would be most beneficial to the state of Mississippi,” Clarke said.