SUMMARY: Many of Sparks' policy ideas involve tax revenue from gambling. On his website, Sparks says Alabama could stabilize Medicaid by taxing casinos. He points to Mississippi as a success story for this strategy.
Determining how much of Mississippi's Medicaid funds come from gaming taxes is difficult, if not impossible. The majority of its Medicaid funds originate from the federal government; the state's general fund typically contributes less than 10 percent of its Medicaid budget. However, according to representatives with the Sparks' claim, the Democrat plans to tax Alabama gaming at a much higher rate than Mississippi.
ANALYSIS: "That is specious," said Francis Rullan, public relations officer with Mississippi Division of Medicaid, about Sparks' strategy.
"I would love to see that data, " Rullan said. "Nothing has stabilized Medicaid in Mississippi."
Rullan said Sparks' statement was unfair because many unknown variables affect Medicaid. Because of factors such as the economy, the cost of healthcare and the unknown number of beneficiaries, the division never knows how much money it will need each year, he said.
"Given all those factors how can you say the program can be stabilized with any one specific type of cash influx?" he said.
Mississippi applies an 11.2 percent tax on casino earnings. About one-third of that money goes to communities near the casinos. The rest is placed into the state's general fund.
In this fiscal year, the state expected that amount to be $162 million. Meanwhile, the state planned to give Mississippi Medicaid $255 million from the state general fund.
In the state's 2010 budget, gaming taxes are projected to make up 3 percent of Mississippi's general fund, compared to 39 percent from sales tax or 31 percent from income tax.
Taylor Bright, spokesman for the Sparks campaign, said Sparks plans to tax Alabama casinos at a minimum rate of 25 percent. He said that would create around $780 million in annual tax revenue.
Bright conceded Alabama's gambling infrastructure is behind Mississippi, yet he added Alabama could reach Mississippi's level
Bright said Sparks also plans to earmark a third of the gambling tax money for Medicaid, which would be around $260 million.
Using Sparks' $260 million estimate, that amount would be 5 percent of Alabama Medicaid's 2010 total budget and 20 percent of the state's portion of the budget.