It’s tough to criticize the lottery if you are its champion. Lt. Gov. Bill Halter seems to be in this delicate spot now—especially since public confidence in the lottery has significantly declined. In this morning’s issue of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Halter admits that a few lottery salaries are too high, but goes on to defend the mistakes made so far.
“There is going to be speed bumps along the way. You are talking about the creation of a $400 million a year gross-revenue enterprise in a 12-month period,” Halter said in an interview for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. “There are very few organizations set up in the public or private sectors with that level of revenue on that time frame and there are none that I know of where that is going to happen without somebody making a mistake along the way.”
First of all, I don’t think anyone is expecting perfection. We are human. But, wouldn’t it have been wise to take a little more time to minimize the possibility of errors? Without even knowing it, Halter is revealing the underlying problem (we are going too fast) while apologizing for the ‘speed bumps’—ones that might have been avoided had the process been slowed down, particularly during this past legislative session.
At every legislative committee meeting when the lottery bill was considered, Sen. Terry Smith (D-Hot Springs) or another lottery proponent said, “we don’t want to tie the hands of the commission” and “we’re losing a million dollars a day [by not acting].” So, the legislature acted quickly and now Lt. Gov. Halter is stuck with a lottery that he might have problems with, but as its champion from the very beginning, he can’t criticize too loudly.
The hard truth: If Halter gets too passionate in his lottery criticism, he’ll risk the political clout he’s created around the entire issue. On the other end, he has no choice but to say something—after all, everyone knows the salaries are out of control.
But Halter can’t have it both ways. He championed this lottery, got it passed, and now he’s stuck with it—warts and all. No amount of political maneuvering can change the fact that this lottery was bad from the very beginning. The legislature gave the Lottery Commission too much power and now we are simply reaping what we have sown.
For more on Lt. Gov. Halter and the lottery, see Mike Wickline’s article in this morning’s issue of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette or read it online by clicking here.