In a day-long session in the State Senate yesterday, Phil Bryant’s Mississippi Infrastructure Modernization proposal passed by a vote of 30-20. The bill would establish a state lottery that is expected to raise up to $80 million per year, proceeds that will deposited into the state highway fund until 2028, at which point the money will be deposited into the state’s general fund. Additional “fees” will push the projected revenue stream up to $200 million.
Whether one supports a state lottery or not, the bill is more than a little problematic in some of its features.
For one thing, the bill establishes a “Mississippi Lottery Corporation” to administer the lottery, which will be a private corporation, consisting of a president, who will answer to a five-member board appointed by the governor, and these officers will be considered “public servants.”
That’s troubling enough, but more disturbing is the fact that the new “corporation” is exempt from public records laws, open meeting laws, and laws that govern bidding.
So, we have the potential creation of a “private corporation” by the state, an entity consisting of officers appointed by the governor with virtually no oversight by the legislature or anyone else because it is exempted from laws governing transparency. To me, at least, it sounds an awful lot like the original “Bank of the United States,” chartered by Congress in 1791, if not today’s Federal Reserve.
What could possibly go wrong with this?!
But 30 senators thought it was a good idea – 21 Republicans and 9 Democrats; while 20 opposed it – 12 Republicans and 8 Democrats, which was more opponents than some originally thought.
Senator Chris McDaniel was one of the Republican “no” votes. He stood for sound conservative fiscal policy and believes the plan a virtual tax increase because the government is gaining additional revenues when ample monies already exist to handle the infrastructure issues if the legislature would “prioritize spending,” instead of wasting revenue on “pork-barrel projects.” The plan will only “grow government,” he said in a Facebook Live video, which is something he has pledged never to do. It was “not a good day for fiscal conservatism,” he said.
The House is expected to take up the bill on Friday.