Ralph Turlington, a longtime politician in Florida, has died at the age of 100.
He was from Gainesville, served in World War II and Korea, and had a Harvard degree.
Unlike some legislators who are always “busy” except when lobbyists want to talk, he would always sit and chat at length, even with a reporter from a small paper not in his district.
His specialty as a legislator was education – he went on to become commissioner of education – and he led the effort to bring the lottery to Florida in the 1980s.
The argument proponents used was that it would provide money for education.
It was a misleading argument, and mistaken in its premise. Education funding was sufficient at the time and still is today. The lottery added nothing.
Another misconception was that it would go to “new” funding.
That was just nuts. What is “new”? Additional money is new the first year, after that it is simply recurring.
Furthermore, it didn’t bring in any new money.
The local newspaper, before it turned liberal, cautioned voters that the lottery money simply would supplant money currently budgeted for education, based on experiences in other states.
And it did.
The total amount going to education never showed a big jump. Legislators simply reduced the amount coming from other areas of the state budget so the total grew, but not anymore than it had in the past.
All the lottery did was create a voluntary tax source. If you chose to buy a lottery ticket, you also were choosing to tax yourself, with that tax revenue going to education.
Turlington was a rarity – a liberal Democrat who was both humble and funny. He was always eloquent and could argue without the rancor of today.
“That’s the most dishonest thing I’ve ever heard from an honest man,” he was known to say in debate.