Group planning to circulate petition proposing a state lottery vote

Wednesday, November 14th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ A new group plans to circulate an initiative petition proposing a vote on a state lottery members say would provide additional money to common education.

Citizens for a Better Oklahoma is comprised of individuals from across the state who are interested in advancing education in Oklahoma, said Michael Carrier, an Oklahoma City political consultant and a spokesman for the group.

The group is not affiliated with the Oklahoma Education Association or any other education organization, he said. The OEA has not supported proposals in which lotteries would dedicate funding to education out of fear it would lead to decreased legislative appropriations to education elsewhere.

``We don't have any big names, or big money,'' Carrier told the Tulsa World's capitol bureau on Tuesday. ``We have educators, retired people, accountants, blue collar and white collar.''

An official announcement is planned for next week.

Carrier said his group believes its estimate of $200 million annually in gross proceeds is conservative. Half that amount, $100 million, would be returned to bettors as winnings, with 10 percent ($20 million) set aside for advertising, promotions and administration.

The other 40 percent, or $80 million a year, would be the state's share.

Carrier said 60 percent of the $80 million, $48 million annually, could go to common education capital improvements such as school renovation and construction, minus funding for administration or equipment.

A little over $20 million, or 26 percent of the $80 million, could go to every public school teacher in Oklahoma and be used to purchase classroom supplies and materials, he said.

Carrier said classroom teachers are spending $100 to $500 of their own money annually on supplies their school districts can't afford. He said his estimate is based on anecdotal information.

Some 13.5 percent of the proceeds, about $11 million, would be used to purchase books and computer software, he said. The remaining half-percent, about $400,000 each year, would go to the Department of Mental Health for the treatment of people with gambling problems, he said.

It cost as much as $1.5 million to circulate the petition and to launch an advertising campaign, Carrier said.

``We are hopeful we can raise the money to get this on the ballot,'' he said.

Oklahomans defeated a lottery proposal in 1994 by a 60 percent to 40 percent margin. Former Gov. David Walters sponsored the proposal, which was opposed by the state's horse racing industry.

Industry officials believed a lottery would divert gambling money from their sport and damage the industry in Oklahoma.

There also was strong opposition to the proposal because of the decline of Walters' popularity after he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor campaign violation.

``I think that level of opposition won't be there this time,'' Carrier said of the horse racing industry.

Polls in the past few years have shown a lottery to be popular with Oklahomans.

A Tulsa World-sponsored Oklahoma Poll in September found 62 percent of state voters would favor a state lottery if such a proposal were put to a vote.

A 1996 Oklahoma Poll showed 63 percent of state voters favored the idea.