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We can do more for seniors without selling our lottery

Guest Column by State Representative Adam Ravenstahl (20th District - Ross Township/West View/City of Pittsburgh) about the Pennsylvania lottery.

Like many in the Legislature, I questioned whether Gov. Tom Corbett was illegally overstepping his authority when he decided to turn over management of our lottery to a British company without input from the General Assembly or the public.

Attorney General Kathleen Kane recently confirmed that, and I'm hopeful this is the final nail in the coffin of a deal that was bad for senior citizens, bad for open and transparent government and bad for employees who efficiently run the lottery.

Under Corbett's contract, Pennsylvania would have had to pay Camelot Global Services' operating expenses, including salaries for private executives. Those payments would be in addition to the company’s management fee, all of which would come from a cut of state lottery profits.

There's no need to privatize lottery management. It's already well run, with operating expenses of just 2.1 percent of total sales. By contrast, Corbett would have given U.K.-based Camelot Global Services up to 5 percent in lottery sales as profits and operating costs.

That would have siphoned $1.6 billion to Camelot over the life of the contract, instead of going to help Pennsylvania seniors. To add insult to injury, many of the 170 hardworking Pennsylvanians who run our lottery would have been out of a job with this governor's fire sale.

I am hopeful the governor won't continue to push his plan with an appeal to Commonwealth Court so we can turn our attention to a proposal I am backing that would bring $120 million more to programs that help our seniors.

The lottery has a surplus of $187 million this year, and it is projected to rise to $200 million next year. House Bill 765 would tap that surplus to provide additional revenue in next year's budget to a variety of senior programs, including the Aging Waiver Program for in-home services to seniors; the 52 Area Agencies on Aging; and a new Senior Center Modernization program; family caregiver support; Alzheimer’s outreach; property tax and rent rebates; and free transit and reduced-fare shared rides.

The House Democratic plan has the backing of the AARP, as well as The Pennsylvania Alliance for Retired Americans, a statewide advocacy group for seniors.

It's time for the governor to stop the fire sale of Pennsylvania's best assets to special interests, and work to help all residents of the commonwealth.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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