GOVERNOR MILTON SHAPP AND THE 25TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE STATE LOTTERY
Speech on the Floor of the Senate, March 17, 1997
Mr. President, at this time I rise to speak a little about the Pennsylvania Lottery. This month the Pennsylvania Lottery celebrated its 25th anniversary game show hosted by Dick Clark. As I watched the special, I noted that there was one glaring omission: the absence of any mention of the man who was responsible for starting the Pennsylvania Lottery, Governor Milton Shapp. I would like to take a few minutes to remember the man who propelled the idea through the General Assembly.
Governor Milton Shapp probably did more for Pennsylvania than any other chief executive in modern times to put this State on a sound financial footing, while at the same time helping the people of our State who needed the help most. Certainly senior citizens never had a better friend. The State Lottery provides mass transit and shared rides, along with property tax and rent relief for our senior citizens. One out of every four prescriptions filled in this State is a PACE prescription. The lottery provides half the budget for the 53 local Area Agencies on Aging, and half the budget of more than 700 senior citizen centers around the State. The Department of Aging, which administers these Lottery programs and oversees many other services for our elder residents, was born in the Shapp Administration. In fact, Mr. President, my very first vote on this Senate floor was for the creation of that Department of Aging back in 1978.
The Lottery now provides $560 million annually in benefits to senior citizens. It has funded nearly $10 billion since its inception 25 years ago. The Lottery helps more than just senior citizens. In additional to the prize winners, of course, retailers also make out pretty well. Each year they earn almost $82 million in commissions, most of which are paid to small businesses.
Certainly the Lottery is a gleaming illustration of Governor Shapp's legacy, but it is only part of the story. He was a self-made millionaire. He was also a humble, down-to-earth man who did not mind a laugh at his own expense. In his final days as Governor, Shapp was kidding with reporters about his legacy. Keep in mind that before the 1970's, the turnpike used pay toilets at its rest areas so travelers could not stop and use facilities without the State extorting a dime or a quarter, or whatever it was then, just because they had to make a pit stop. They changed that during the Shapp administration. As he was leaving office he told reporters that he would probably go down in history as the man who abolished pay toilets on the Turnpike. In reality though, he gave the people of Pennsylvania much more than that.
Historian Paul Beers, in his book, "Pennsylvania Politics Today and Yesterday," noted that America did not appreciate Harry Truman until several decades after he retired. Beers figured it might take Pennsylvania as long to give Milton Shapp the respect he deserves as champion of the common man. Like Harry Truman, Governor Shapp did not leave office as a terribly popular man, but as we reflect on his accomplishments today, we realize that Pennsylvania is a better place to live because of the 8 years he spent in the Governor's Office. The State was in a fiscal crisis when he took over in 1971. We were spending about $1 million a day more than we were receiving in revenue. We had not had a budget in 18 months, and Governor Shapp inherited a $500 million deficit, in 1971 dollars, from the previous administration.
He brought back fiscal solvency and carried Pennsylvania into the modern era of tax fairness by gaining passage of a personal income tax. That was not an easy or popular thing to do, but Governor Shapp got us through it. During his 8 years in office, he had six budget surpluses. Not only did he solve the financial crisis the State faced, he also put modern budgeting methods into effect, and he insisted that State money sitting in banks earning no interest be invested. He started the practice of keeping the legislature informed about budget matters on a year-round basis, something that had been rarely done before and continues today. The State's share of the school subsidy was never as high as it was under Governor Shapp, and it has not been that high since. After making sure that the State had adequate revenues, he invested the taxpayers' money wisely in our future in school children and education.
During part of the Shapp administration, the State was an equal partner with local school districts, paying 50 percent of the cost of school district budgets. Milton Shapp understood that although government cannot do everything, there are some things that government can do well. He understood that tax money belongs to the people and that it should be spent to improve the lives of people who cannot help themselves, and knew that by doing so, we improved the lives of everyone in society. In a speech in 1973, in Pittsburgh, he insisted that the State had to do more to help the downtrodden. He said, and I quote, "In the name of economy, genuine human needs are being neglected." If Milton Shapp had been Governor last year, I bet we would not have taken health care away from 220,000 working poor Pennsylvanians because we could not afford it, after we gave business almost $300 million in tax breaks.
Governor Shapp was often at odds with the legislature because he was a man ahead of his times in many ways. Back in the 1970s he proposed a graduated income tax, local property tax reform that we still struggle with today, School Choice revisions, no-fault divorce, and prison reform, among other things. We accomplished a few of these things, but we are still wrestling with some of the problems that Milton Shapp perceived and tried to fix almost 20 years ago.
He did achieve many of his forward-thinking goals, however. Under Governor Shapp we passed a Sunshine Law for open government, transportation for nonpublic school students, a consumer advocacy law, State preservation of our sections of the Appalachian Trail, and flood control measures . He showed concern for people in little ways. For example, he realized that a baby born out of wedlock did not deserve the stigmatized phrase "illegitimate child," so it was abolished as a legal term during his administration. Maybe he cared so much about others because he felt the sting of discrimination himself as a Jewish-American to the point that he changed his name from "Shapiro" to "Shapp" to escape it.
For 25 years the Pennsylvania Lottery has been providing benefits to senior citizens. I hope that all Pennsylvanians take a moment to acknowledge and remember the contributions that Milton Shapp made to this Commonwealth.
Thank you, Mr. President.
Copyright 2000 Sen. Vincent J. Fumo