The Arizona Lottery: Public Good or Slush Fund?

The Arizona Republic issued an investigative report detailing a disturbing disconnect between state lottery income growth and respective funding for government programs. While lottery funds have grown over 25% since 2010, portions of lottery funding for programs such as the economic-development fund, the transportation fund, and the Heritage Fund, have all seen major cuts.

This money has instead been diverted into the Legislature’s general fund. While Arizona’s Legislators maintains in various fashions that the money was probably going to the lottery causes anyway in the end, there is at this time no definitive way to be sure that lottery profits are actually going towards programs that the lottery was established to benefit. Considering the lottery came into existence and was subsequently reaffirmed in the interest of those programs, this seems problematic–particularly when this inability to track funds was affirmed by Senate President Andy Biggs.

The pie chart compiled by The Arizona Republic seen below stands in stark contrast to the public image of the Arizona Lottery. On their website they proudly show a different looking graph, which it fails to mention that half of the distributions end up going into the general fund where their use is indeterminable.

Republic Pie Chart2

The possible discrepancy between the public good the Lottery may contribute to and the public good it actually contributes to is not one that seems to particularly concern the public. Only in passing does it seem to concern the Legislature–especially considering this seems to have stood unaccounted for some time. Considering the Lottery continues to grow yearly, and there seems to be a trend towards shrinking the defined budgeting of its profit in favor of a catch all cash pool, can we really claim it’s still in the public interest?

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A correspondent from The Onion had this to say in the aftermath of The Arizona Republic’s report:

 AZ Legislature Expected to Post Craigslist Ad for “Miracle Software”

As Arizona Lottery funds slip from public scrutiny into the general fund, lawmakers prepared for a public outcry characterized by the President of the Senate as “probably somebody at some point.” Depicting the general fund as a “…black hole from which paper trails cannot escape,” a motion was made that the legislators, whose sole constitutional duty is to pass a budget, should probably figure out a way to track where their money comes from and where it goes.

Legislators reportedly spent four hours attempting to redeploy an unnamed Senator’s “totally legit” copy of TurboTax 2005 in a new capacity that would “…hopefully unravel this complex fiscal mystery, like some kind of Hardy Boys novel about government accounting.” After the 38th attempt to convince the software to spontaneously change its core programming via a series of vague voice commands shouted through the Senatorial bullhorn, a motion was put forward to purchase a new piece of software instead of dealing with “…this incompetent malfunctioning garbage.”

AZHouseTurboTax2

After deciding to utilize the classifieds giant “Craigslist” as a vehicle by which they might skip multiple investigative committees detailing the actual extent of the issue, the governing body proceeded to hash out the wording of the proposal. There was a general consensus, echoed by the Speaker of the House, that the ad should “…not be too needy, but should still get across the idea that we’re in over our head here and have sunk so deep beneath the waves of responsibility that we literally cannot see the sunlight anymore.”

In closing, legislators made sure to add a disclaimer about the source of funding for potential respondents to the Craigslist posting of SB 1494 (now titled “Election Year Hail Mary #6”). “We don’t exactly know where the money we’ll be paying you with actually came from, but we swear it’s gonna be bona fide fiat currency–no doubt about that.” Respondents with potential software candidates pertinent to the Legislature’s issue are to contact the House Information Desk, where calls will be redirected to intern Antonio Q. Stone, who is reportedly “…good with this kind of electronic-type stuff.”

In the event that the Craigslist ad “doesn’t pan out or something,” Legislators assured their constituents that a back-up plan involving “adhesive parchment of some kind” and “…four-dimensional vessels in which to store denominations of state currency” was already zipping its way through the rules committee with no resistance–much like the way income makes its way in and out of the general fund.

The characterization of the expected legislative response and that of the Legislature’s individual members is strictly satire (and not actually from The Onion).

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