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Monday, May 16, 2005

Mo Money Mo Problems

Have just finished reading an AP story, that was a follow on a copyrighted Albuquerque Journal story that I can't, for the life of me, find on their web site. Anyway, the story was about the fact that New Mexico Lottery Chief Tom Shaheen needs a raise or he might leave New Mexico. Right now Shaheen is making $160,000 plus $17,000 bonuses a year. Lottery board chairwoman Claydean Claiborne of Jai wants him to start making $205,000 outright in July. She says it's the only way New Mexico will keep Shaheen and that he's "worth the money." Apparently, our lottery is one of just two that has seven years of sales increases since it began, with $148 million lottery tickets bought in 2004. Board members say Shaheen is the reason our lottery is doing so well.
uh huh. Maybe.
Of course, another reason our lottery may be breaking records is because you have to be pretty desperate to buy a lottery ticket (not across the board, of course). Buying lottery tickets is, of course, just gambling, and gambling usually means taking money from lower-income people. It's also, as this Alternet column posits" a really regressive way to raise money for a state, in part because of its high administrative costs (and certainly paying a director more than $200,000 seems like a high administrative cost). Now, I realize that lottery scholarships help send many New Mexicans to college, and obviously, it's important to find a way to send people in this state to school—particularly given that their families will be broke from buying all these lottery tickets, but I find it really, really disturbing that anyone would argue that paying the head of the lottery more than $200,000 is a good use of money. My guess is that as long as lottery tickets remain available, there will be always be record sales of them in New Mexico, given that most residents here will never make the kind of money Shaheen is. For example, on my way to WF for lunch ($5.95 sushi, best deal in town), I spotted, for the second week in a row, two men, in front of the Hotel Santa Fe, whose job appears to be holding up a sign for an art auction at the hotel. All day. They stand there all day holding up a banner in the sun. What are they being paid? And doesn't it go without saying that the only reason anyone would take a job so awful and uncomfortable would be the lack of opportunity for any other job?
Anyway, speaking of working for money, /Albuquerque is going to start debating a living wage law now. It will be interesting to see if that city's debate becomes as polarized as Santa Fe's did. My money (which is likely more than the men standing in front of Hotel Santa Fe, but significantly less than Shaheen's) is that it won't.