The Idaho Spending Index examines appropriation bills on several fronts to add important context to lawmakers’ discussions as they are considered on the floor of the House and Senate. Among the issues we look at in drawing a conclusion about a budget:
Does the agency requesting these funds serve a proper role of government? Has wasteful or duplicative spending been identified within the agency, and if so, has that spending been eliminated or corrected? Does the budget examine existing spending to look for opportunities to contain spending, e.g., through a base reduction? If there is a maintenance budget, is that maintenance budget appropriate? Are the line items appropriate in type and size, and are they absolutely necessary for serving the public? Does the budget contemplate the addition of new employees or programs? Does the appropriation increase dependency on the federal government?
Our analysis is intended to provide lawmakers and their constituents with a frame of reference for conservative budgeting, by summarizing whether appropriation measures contain items that are sincerely objectionable or sincerely supportable.
Bill description: Senate Bill 1370 appropriates $7,108,900 and 50.0 FTP to the Idaho Lottery Commission.
SB 1370 provides the Lottery Commission with a 10.2% budget increase of $658,400. This corresponds with the addition of five new full-time positions at a cost of $393,500. Notably, the commission would like to add a second fraud detective at a price tag of $88,500 and two new IT software engineers for a combined cost of $176,200. This is in response to a sharp increase in lottery ticket sales over the last few years.
The Idaho State Lottery is three decades old. But the problems with the establishment and running of a government gambling operation are no different today than when the first lottery ticket was sold in Idaho in 1989.
The government simply shouldn’t be in the lottery business. In addition to being a tax on the poorest, who hope that a winning ticket will solve their financial problems, it is also widely understood to be a tax on people whose hopes lead them to conclude that they may be lucky enough to “strike it rich,” even though the odds don’t favor such an outcome. The lottery’s business model depends on purchases from people who cannot afford tickets, making it highly dubious public policy. Given the current trajectory of the economy, it is likely that ticket sales will continue to increase as Idahoans seek ways to escape the crippling cost of living.