Monday, September 08, 2003

Here We Go Again

News was announced today that Georgia's Rebecca Paul is coming to Tennessee to run our lottery corporation. As South Knox Bubba has already noted, this was long in the making. Our legislators have been wooing her in the worst, most blatant way for quite a while now. It was pretty obvious from the very first stories about her in the State press.

It may be that she read the tea leaves back home and is getting out before her future detractors introduce her to the town's railroad tracks. It seems that the Georgia lottery is a huge success, maybe too huge:
Lawmakers in Georgia have worried for years that lottery sales one day won't cover the scholarship and pre-kindergarten programs the lottery is supposed to fund. But this summer, state officials got a grim prediction of how soon the two programs could outstrip lottery receipts.

Based on current projections, lottery revenues will fall short by $39 million in 2006 and by $221 million in 2007.

And that's assuming lottery revenues don't drop between now and then. Tennessee residents, considered prime border-crossing customers, recently voted to start their own lottery (and HOPE-like scholarship program) that should be up and running by next year.
She'd better watch herself here, or she'll get the John Shumaker welcome: big up front and pointy in the back. SKB has detailed this one quite well: huge welcome as a conquering hero, getting a pass on the high-life and perks she'll share with the other political bigs, then she steps on the wrong toes somewhere somehow, she finds herself vilified in the press and under various investigations, plain-sight problems in her past will suddenly be looked at, she's shown the door. Don't be surprised. It's how we do business in Tennessee.

There's another eye-opener. Look at what it took to get her here:
Paul's base salary will be $350,000, but she can earn incentives that could raise her annual salary to $752,500....

The total package would keep her the highest-paid lottery executive in the United States.

"Tennessee students will be getting the best lottery CEO in the world," said Denny Bottorff, the chairman of the board of the Tennessee Education Lottery Corp.
Shumaker would be envious! Doesn't that last quote just make your bullshit detectors quiver? The story doesn't make clear who actually hired her, though one presumes it was the Board of Directors of the Tennessee Education Lottery Corp. However, it was politicians who hogged the spotlight in introducing her, especially Senator Steve Cohen, the man whom no sane-thining, safety-minded individual would get between when spotlights beckon him. Deals like this don't happen fast; meetings were held in the back room and I'd like to hear about them.

But since both these stories came from the Associated Press, and not the Commercial Appeal's own writers, I'm not holding my breath. New editor Chris Peck has really shown a lack of enthusiasm for state-wide issues. Most of these stories wind up back in the depths of the Metro section now, taken from the AP. It's a shame.

The article goes on:
She receives the entire bonus if she meets three conditions: Tennessee's lottery must be up and running by Feb. 17, it must be online 60 days after that and it must reach $122 million in net revenues in her first year....

In its first year, the lottery is expected to bring in at least $200 million after prizes and expenses, with scholarships costing an estimated $175 million.
Don't you just love that "scholarships costing" bit? Yeah, all that lottery money belongs to the State, so spending it on its designated purpose is a cost. Notice, too, the huge disconnect between her benchmark and the expected first-year earnings. Someone's hedging her bets? No, more likely she knows just what the first year will bring and it's not even close to the pie-in-the-sky estimates we've been hearing from Cohen. Cohen himself, during the campaign for the lottery, only went as high as $180 million, the maximum amount in the estimated range of earnings from a now-three-year old study. My money's on Paul's number as being closer to the mark.

The whole thing stinks to me of typical back-room Nashville. There's a lot of money sloshing around here and it seems that a lot of hands are fighting hard to grab a bit. Don't be surprised when we start to hear, in a few years, about the number of students who "being denied" their share of the lottery scholarships, the wastefulness of the Lottery Corporation and the high-living ways of Rebecca Paul, who will be running another lottery in another state by then. I'm just sayin'.

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