Legislators gather support for Powerball

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(Host) Backers of an effort to have Vermont join the national lottery game known as Powerball say they believe they have the votes at the Statehouse to pass their bill. The House on Thursday afternoon will consider Powerball as part of its review of this year’s supplemental budget bill.

Speaking last night on VPR’s Switchboard program, Representative George Cross (D-Winooski) said he’ll oppose the Powerball option because he views it as a regressive tax on low income Vermonters:

(Cross) “It’s pretty clear from the studies that have been done across the country that the lottery is simply a regressive form of taxation. Now, it is a voluntary form of taxation and I would have to agree with that. But the fact of the matter is that we entice folks to spend their money chasing a rainbow and the rainbow’s not there.”

(Host) Senator Susan Bartlett (D-Lamoille) once opposed Powerball, but now she’s the lead sponsor of the bill in the Senate. Bartlett says the state is losing more than just lottery dollars when Vermonters go to New Hampshire to buy Powerball tickets. She’s says the state is losing additional revenue because Vermonters are buying gasoline and other items on their trip across the border:

(Bartlett) “That has a very real negative impact on little mom and pop stores in Vermont that are struggling to stay alive when they lose that revenue. The reality is Vermonters are buying Powerball tickets. So why have them cross the state line to do it?”

(Host) Governor Jim Douglas says he’ll sign legislation containing Powerball if it reaches his desk. This is a sharp departure from the position of former Governor Howard Dean who vowed to veto any bill that included Powerball.

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