Don Jorgensen steps out from behind the KELO anchor desk to inform us that South Dakota's video lottery revenues are down 17% so far this year. Jorgensen postulates that the smoking ban, the weather, and the new Grand Falls Casino in Iowa have all sapped revenues.
State Senator Phyllis Heineman shows us that the only solution the Legislature can come up with is to lure more people into more gambling:
Heineman sits on the appropriations committee. She's deeply concerned about the video lottery revenue, because it's the second highest source of income for the state, behind sales tax.
"So now we have to figure out how do we keep it vital and how do we keep it interesting so it continues to be a part of our revenue," Heineman said.
Normally video lottery generates more than $100 million per year for the state budget. But this year, Heineman says lawmakers are projecting that number to be close to only $89 million.
Heineman says video lottery has traditionally been a big source of income that needs to be protected. That's why the lawmakers passed legislation to allow new line games.
"I think that ability to have some new games and have some new excitement to increase the entertainment value will be critical," Heineman said [Don Jorgensen, "Lottery's Lull," KELOLand.com, 2011.09.08].
Hmmm... if excitement and entertainment value are the key to bolstering state revenues, perhaps we need to hire a corps of buxom young ladies in very small dresses to work in the county treasurers' offices. Or maybe that was the missing magic bullet from Gerry Lange's various income tax proposals: he needed to propose that for every $500 paid in income tax, citizens would receive not just patched potholes and algebra teachers but free admission to Huset's Speedway or the Kongo Klub.
Nowhere does Senator Heineman or newsman Jorgensen suggest that maybe a tax based on entertainment value isn't such a great idea to begin with. Nowhere do they acknowledge the risk we take in basing funding for public programs on addictive consumer behavior that can be so quickly diverted by entrepreneurial zeal just across our border. Nowhere do they recognize that instead of taking advantage of addicts and people who are bad at math, the state might develop a more honest and just tax system that charges all citizens fairly in proportion to the wealth and advantages they enjoy in civil society.
Recognizing that we are paying for parks, roads, schools, and fire trucks ought to be all the excitement we need to pay taxes. We should not depend on flashing lights and mostly false promises of fun and instant wealth to fund our public works.