Sir Xsarus wrote:
I'm sure lottery money is great for funding specific projects and improvements and the like, but it's a pretty terrible way to fund something with a budget.
I'd actually argue the other way around (shocking, I know!). The only reason I can think of why it might be a "terrible way to fund something" would be because of the variability of the revenue stream. But I think that's more problematic for programs which don't have set budgets than those that do. A non-discretionary item will be funded X dollars this year. So if your lottery revenue generates more than X, you've paid for it and the remainder can go into the pool for funding discretionary stuff. If your lottery generates less than X, then you've directly reduced the amount of other taxes you have to raise to pay for that thing, thus lifting the tax burden for something like health care somewhat.
Doing it the other way around is a recipe for those programs growing unnecessarily during high volume years (cause I've never met a government program that can't find ways to spend money if its available), then being unable (or unwilling) to cut that spending level when lottery revenues are down. So what happens is you think "we can use this lottery money to fund new projects A, B, and C and it wont cost the taxpayers a dime!". But it's folly to think that you can just fund them year to year based on the lottery revenue. It just wont work. And it'll always be the highest amount that ends out being used, resulting in greater overall tax burden over time, not lower.
This is the same kind of thinking that got California in so much economic trouble. When property values were high, the state was raking in the money. Because it had extra money, it spent the extra money. Our budget more or less doubled in size over a ten year period of time. Then, when the housing market crashed, the revenue stream dwindled, and resulted in massive deficits. But now that they've already created all that new spending, they can't figure out how to cut it. Had they never had access to that revenue in the first place, they'd have no problem at all managing. It's one of the reasons I don't see increasing revenue as a viable solution to a deficit problem. When you increase revenue, you *will* see increased spending down the line. Government (hell most people) can't help but increase spending to use up all the revenue.