Why would the state want lottery money?

Thank goodness the idea of a state lottery in Nevada was put to rest - for the 23rd time.

We can expect to see it again someday, though, because lotteries are "popular" and some legislators see them as a pain-free way to raise taxes.

Well, here's a suggestion for people who play lotteries: Why not simply mail your money directly to the government and cut out the middleman?

And for Nevada Democrats: Keep government out of the business of gambling.

The Senate Judiciary Committee, headed by Republican Mark Amodei of Carson City, voted 5-2 last week to kill a proposed lottery that its proponents said would raise $50 million for schools.

The committee's vote got the usual response - state lawmakers again are trying to protect the almighty casino industry by going against the wishes of the people, who want a state lottery.

Sorry, but we'd also have to argue against it if some lawmaker thought it was a good idea for the state to sell cars, or rent apartments, or make cotton candy on weekends for the circus. All those would raise money for education too. But they're not government's job.

Another issue raised during the committee's deliberations merits revisiting. Just how much money does Nevada need to spend on schools?

Already more than half the state's budget - some $2.7 billion - goes to education. Record tax increases in 2003 were directed primarily at education, adding hundreds of millions of dollars. Gov. Kenny Guinn upped the ante another $100 million in his proposed budget this year.

The logic for a lottery seems to be: It would bring in another $50 million or so, and people already buy lottery tickets, therefore it must be a good idea.

But the lottery is just a thinly disguised tax, and Nevada already has more than enough tax revenue. Please concentrate on ideas for improving education, of which there are many, instead of ways to extract more money from Nevadans.


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