(Oklahoma City) State Senator Brad Henry announced Wednesday that he is exploring the possibility of an initiative petition drive that would ultimately let Oklahomans decide whether to create a state lottery to help fund education.
All of the polls indicate that there is overwhelming support for a statewide lottery in the name of public education. If we can get it on the ballot, I dont have any doubt that it would pass, said Henry, D-Shawnee.
I believe the lottery proposal that Ive put together has the potential to do great things for our state, and Im not going to stop working until the people get a chance to have their say on it.
Senator Henry had tried to pass SJR 40 -- legislation that called for a statewide lottery vote through the Legislature this year, but he decided to withdraw the measure from consideration Wednesday after it became apparent that there were not enough votes to garner Senate approval.
Despite that setback, Henry is pressing ahead, saying the issue is too important to the future of Oklahoma.
This isnt the end of the fight; its just the beginning. When I filed my lottery legislation this year, I knew it would be an uphill battle to get it through both Houses. Ive always been prepared to go another route if necessary to get the question on a statewide ballot, said Henry.
Its estimated a statewide lottery could gross $500 million a year for Oklahoma, pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into college scholarships, early childhood programs, capitol improvements for public schools and full health insurance coverage for educators. With our state in the midst of a budget crisis and no new revenue available, I think the lottery is about the only option we may have for funding those programs, said Henry.
Thirty-eight states and the District of Columbia currently have lotteries, including every state bordering Oklahoma except Arkansas.
The lottery helped the State of Georgia fund college scholarships and produce thousands of new graduates. I know we would see a similar success story here, and that would be a major economic development boost for Oklahoma, said Henry, noting states with the highest numbers of college graduates also have the highest per capita incomes.
Obviously, it would have been easier to go the legislative route to getting this before the voters. But we still have the initiative petition process as an alternative. The people should have the right to decide whether they want to have a lottery or not, said Henry.