There is, pundits say, little chance that Mayor Schmoke will get the requisite General Assembly approval for his proposal to add a 10-cent surcharge on lottery tickets. But it shows the depths to which the city's financial condition has plunged, and the extent to which the state has all but ignored its plight, that the most hopeful way to adequately fund the police department is to add a dime to the price of a lottery ticket.
We have noted countless times on these pages our opposition to lotteries -- not merely because they are terribly fickle sources of revenue, but more so because they amount to little more than a tax on the poor, who are disproportionately ensnared by the state pitch that, "it could be you."
But the question on the table at the moment is not whether we shall have state lotteries, but rather how we are to utilize the revenues raised by them. The homicide rate in Baltimore is skyrocketing and the police department needs more money. Lawmakers are right to cringe at the notion that the only way to adequately fund a key city service is through a lottery surcharge. Their dismay might be better focused, however, on why the city finds itself in this grim situation and what, specifically, the state might do instead to help. Merely voting down the surcharge will accomplish nothing.