Governor eyes pull-tab funds to cover health insurance costs

Revenue also would be used for state matching funds for nonprofits

Posted: Monday, April 07, 2003

ANCHORAGE - Gov. Frank Murkowski has a new proposal in which he wants to take money from pull-tab games and use it for the state's matching funds for nonprofits and to pay for increased state employee health insurance costs.

Murkowski earlier had proposed eliminating the small grant program. He said Friday he was glad he found a way to fund the program.

But more money for agencies and health care means less money for pull-tab prizes.

Charities around the state, which depend on the pull-tab games for income, already have bombarded the governor's office with criticism over his earlier plan to lower the amount they pay out in prizes. The new plan shrinks the prize money even further. Charities worry that fewer people will play if there is less chance of winning.

That's not how the governor sees it.

"It's my experience that they really don't spend an awful lot of time figuring the odds. If they did, they wouldn't play them at all," Murkowski said.

Currently, there's no cap on prize money. Pull tabs on average pay out 78 percent of their gross receipts to winners, according to the state Department of Revenue. Murkowski originally had proposed capping that at 72 percent and now wants it capped at 68 percent.

If the Legislature goes along, the state would get $22.4 million in taxes and fees, compared to $2 million under the current arrangement. Charities also would get more, $31.3 million compared to $23.3 million, if the same number of pull tabs is bought.

The plan would set aside some $6 million for increased state employee health costs.

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