Friday, July 11, 2003

Speaking of the Lottery

The lottery here is different from those in other states that I live in. Here the money is earmarked for programs for the elderly -- transit assistance, drug programs, etc. Everywhere else I have been the money has been aimed at education and youth programs. The difference in attitude runs deep here, where the whole attitude of the state seems "older" compared to the Southwest, or even the Florida Panhandle. (In Chicago I had other things on my mind and paid little attention to local politics.) A day rarely goes by when I don't get the impression that the AARP is a very powerful lobby, and that their issues get a lot of play at all levels of government, from lobbying and bils to my US Representative, Melissa Hart (R-Pa), having special office hours for seniors.

This probably reflects the national trend that people are moving south and west, and that younger people are more willing to pull up stakes than their parents and head out as the industries that traditionally drove the rust belt are contracting. It raises some serious budgetary challenges, however, since jobs are migrating with the people leaving a large base of voters who (understandably) want to make sure that their entitlements aren't cut, but who are not paying a lot of money into the system any more.

Unless the city and state can find addtional sources of revenue (and they are trying a lot, from urging businesses to buy lottery tickets to approving mini-casinos all over the place) or get the courage to raise taxes then something ugly seems likely to happen within the next 5 years or so.