Sen. Brooks McCabe, D-Kanawha, is managing member and broker of West Virginia Commercial LLC. He has been involved in commercial and investment real estate for more than 30 years, and he also is general partner of McCabe Land Co. LP. He has served in the West Virginia Senate since 1998, and is a special project consultant to The State Journal.
In a time when the gaming industry is fraught with change and competition increasing in the contiguous states, West Virginia ought to take a careful look at lottery revenues and reset its funding priorities.
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has introduced legislation (SB385) that reduces funding for two years for certain accounts funded by lottery proceeds. This $39 million reduction is justified by the need to balance the budget and to address concerns expressed by Wall Street that the four-to-one coverage for bond payments could be in jeopardy in future years.
This is a good bill and should pass in some form. The problem is that it does not go far enough. Given that there will be considerable discussion by the stakeholders of each program being cut, the Legislature should meet the challenge now and do it in such a manner that the subject does not have to be revisited in two years. If the Legislature needs to expend political capital to accomplish a task, it should make sure the debate is worth the effort. Since this legislation will be hotly debated by all parties involved, the Legislature should take the opportunity to firmly settle the issue going forward. This will allow the Legislature to move on to other areas that need attention.
This could be one of the first lines of defense for the state in times of need. Many legislators are focusing only on the Rainy Day Funds as the key backstop. These funds should be viewed as the last resort. Current thinking seems to be finding all kinds of creative ways to use the Rainy Day Funds. One of the backstops should be the lottery. We need to find a way to cause this to be put in place.
As West Virginia develops its "Map to Prosperity," better management of the budget needs to be part of the plan. We must not miss such opportunities as SB385 provides. A chance to re-address funding priorities for lottery proceeds is an important part of the equation.
Let's raise the bar and seize this opportunity to put part of the "Map to Prosperity" in place for future years.