Arkansans are not pleased. According to a recent poll by Talk Business, public support for the lottery is decidedly mixed—and even leaning to the negative side. The poll was conducted July 13-15 by telephone with 600 likely Arkansas voters, and the results are quite telling.
Question 1: Do you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of the Arkansas lottery?
Strongly favorable – 28%
Somewhat favorable – 21%
Somewhat unfavorable – 8%
Strongly unfavorable – 32%
No Opinion – 9%
Don’t know – 2%
Notice that only 49% have a favorable view of the lottery; 40% have an unfavorable view. Also, as Talk Business points out, “The ‘strong’ opinions are particularly insightful, with ‘strongly unfavorable’ leading the pack with 32% of public opinion.” The results from the next survey question help reveal why public opinion on the lottery has soured.
Question 2: Do you agree or disagree that a salary of $300,000 per year for the state lottery director is too high?
Strongly agree – 71%
Somewhat agree – 10%
Somewhat disagree – 8%
Strongly disagree – 9%
Don’t know – 2%
And there you have it. 81% hold the opinion that a $300,000 per year salary for the lottery director is too high. This makes me wonder: Where would public opinion fall on the other six figure lottery salaries doled out so far? My gut tells me we would end up with very similar results. For most likely a diverse set of reasons, Arkansans do not see these high salaries as justified.
In stark contrast, it seems many legislators are just now waking up to the issue—or they now care a bit more since constituents are sounding the alarm. Seth Blomeley, in an article for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, quoted Sen. David Johnson (D-Little Rock), co-chairman of the lottery oversight committee, as saying the salaries are “too high” and that he looks “back on it with regret.” Sen. Johnson’s ‘regret’ is in reference to the July 2 meeting between the lottery commission and the oversight committee; it was at this meeting that the lottery hires were approved by the committee’s legislators. “We never talked about salaries on July 2 and certainly didn’t endorse any salary amount for any position,” said Johnson.
I know this is a rhetorical question, but I just have to ask: Why wouldn’t you discuss salaries before approving the lottery hires? Is this not just common sense? What’s the point of having a lottery oversight committee that doesn’t provide oversight? Sen. Johnny Key (R-Mountain Home)—the only member of the committee who opposed the revamped lottery-staff pay plan—admits that “in our haste to get lottery ticket sales under way” the committee neglected to focus on important details.
The main sponsor of the law, Speaker of the House Robbie Wills (D-Conway), voted for the pay plan on July 2. He was quoted as saying: “The concern I and other legislators now have is that the hires made to date have been at the top end of the pay scale. This was not our intention.” The keyword to focus on here is ‘now’—now Wills and other legislators are concerned. Do you ever get the feeling that you’re talking but no one is listening? I certainly do. Lt. Gov. Halter and I seemed to be the only ones raising the red flag about how the lottery legislation was too ambiguous and allowed for—among other things—unjustifiably high salaries for lottery staff members.
If these salaries were not your intention, Speaker Wills, you should have made that known and actually reflected your intention into the lottery bill that you championed. Hopefully now legislators will stop treating Arkansans as apathetic, then maybe, just maybe, bad legislation won’t be rushed through without proper oversight and scrutiny.
The whole ‘clueless’ argument from our elected officials isn’t going to work anymore.