Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey has said it’s important that any proposal to expand gambling in Alabama be presented in a way that’s clear to voters and that she’ll let people know if she believes that’s not happening.
Speaking briefly to reporters this morning after a ceremony to proclaim today as Supermarket Employees Day, Ivey answered questions about Sen. Del Marsh’s proposed constitutional amendment for a lottery and five casinos.
Marsh introduced the bill on Feb. 11. The Senate discussed it that day and is expected to resume debate and possibly vote on the bill Tuesday.
“So far, from what you can tell, do you think it has been a transparent process?” a reporter asked the governor.
“So far. We’ll keep watching.” Ivey said. “I think Senator Marsh will be addressing that more tomorrow when they come into session.”
Ivey was asked whether she supports a lottery and five casinos.
“So far as I know, yes,” the governor said.
The governor also said this morning the state would monitor any moves by the Biden administration and Congress that could provide more federal funding to support Medicaid expansion in Alabama. Ivey and the Republican-led Legislature have opposed expanding Medicaid. Thirty-eight states have expanded Medicaid to cover low-income families under the Affordable Care Act.
Ivey spoke on the Capitol steps with people in the grocery business to recognize employees in the retail food industry, which provides about 70,000 jobs in the state. The governor said that while many people have worked from home during the pandemic, grocery store employees have not had that option and have continued to show up every day to take care of customers and keep stores clean and shelves stocked.
“This has been an incredible effort by these heroes in our community,” Ivey said. She presented a proclamation to Ellie Taylor, president of the Alabama Grocers Association.
Ivey has not supported expanding gambling in Alabama since she became governor in 2017. But last year she appointed a study group to gather facts about a lottery and other ways to expand gambling. Ivey said she wanted to give lawmakers and voters the information to settle issues that have stalled in the Legislature for years.
The study group issued a report in December that did not recommend or oppose gambling expansion but concluded that Alabama gets no benefit from the gambling in the state now. Ivey has since said Alabama can benefit from an expansion of gambling done the right way. All four states that border Alabama have lotteries to help support education and other programs,
Voters will have the final say if legislators approve a bill. Alabama voters rejected a lottery in 1999, but no lottery bills have made it through the Legislature since.
Marsh’s bill would apply the state’s net revenue from a lottery to college scholarships for high-demand careers. Money from casinos would be applied to expand access to broadband internet, support health care and mental health care, and support the state General Fund.
The Legislative Services Agency estimated the lottery and casinos could raise net revenue for the state of $450 million to $670 million. Read the fiscal note, which describes how the money would be used.
Ivey was also asked today about the chances for any new consideration of Medicaid expansion in Alabama.
Alabama is one of 12 states that have not expanded Medicaid as allowed under the Affordable Care Act.
Studies have estimated that expansion would reduce the number of people without health insurance in Alabama by about 300,000 people. Those would include people from households who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but don’t have insurance through an employer and don’t qualify for subsidies to help them buy insurance on the healthcare marketplace. People who earn less than the federal poverty level don’t qualify for the subsidies.
Ivey has said expansion would be irresponsible without a stable source of funding to pay the state’s share of the cost.
Marsh’s gambling bill would dedicate a portion of revenues to rural health care, a provision Marsh said he added at Ivey’s request. Asked today if that money could be used to help expand Medicaid, Ivey said she did not think that would be a good decision.
“You can’t fund essential services of government with an unsteady source of funding,” Ivey said.
President Biden is trying to strengthen the Affordable Care Act after efforts to repeal it failed during the Trump administration. Congress is considering legislation that could provide more funding to help Alabama and other states expand Medicaid under the ACA.
Ivey was asked whether such moves by the Biden administration or Congress could result in new consideration to expand Medicaid.
“As the president works on this and they develop another plan for expanding Medicaid, we’ll certainly take a look at it and make the best possible decision for the people of Alabama,” Ivey said.
This article is a reprint from AL.com. To view the original story and comment, click here.