Get ready for another round of demands that Utah follow the lead of many other states in adopting a lottery to help finance its schools and other government programs.
Those demands seem to come after a big lottery payoff elsewhere around the country - and there was a whopper the other day in Florida. Six winners shared tickets entitling them to a total of $106.5 million, the second largest lottery jackpot in U.S. history behind Pennsylvania's $115 million prize last year.Such big figures tend to make a lot of eyes bug out. So does the $38 million that Florida schools get from the latest jackpot.
What aren't so well-known, however, are the fleas that come with this deceptively attractive dog.
For openers, the huge prizes feed the widespread misconception that the lottery is footing the bill to educate Florida's children. Instead, the windfall from last weekend's lottery will run Florida's schools for only about half a day.
Yet opinion polls show that the misconception about the contribution of the lottery to education has led Florida voters to kill four major school bond proposals since the lottery began in 1988.
Even state legislators, who ought to know better, fall into the same trap. As a result, education's share of general revenues in Florida has fallen since the adoption of the lottery.
In other words, as The Orlando Sentinel puts it, "lottery dollars appear to be replacing rather than enhancing the general tax money historically spent on public schools. That is the opposite of what lottery proponents promised voters when the games were approved in a 1986 referendum."
This sad experience is not limited to Florida but can be seen in many other states with the lottery. Utah must continue to avoid repeating their mistakes.