WHAT OTHERS SAY: Reject lottery amendment, despite worthy cause

Thursday, July 31, 2014 | 10:44 a.m. CDT

A proposed lottery for military veterans again puts us in the position of opposing a specific approach to a subject we generally support.

The official ballot title for Constitutional Amendment 8 on Tuesday’s ballot asks: “Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to create a ‘Veterans Lottery Ticket’ and to use the revenue from the sale of these tickets for projects and services related to veterans?”

Historically, we have supported initiatives for military veterans. We fear the addition of a veterans lottery, however, will siphon money from Missouri education.

We have a philosophical problem with state-sanctioned gambling operations — state lottery, casinos — because they permit the state to do what people cannot do. Criminal laws prohibit people from operating games of chance.

The lottery was created by a voter-approved constitutional amendment in 1984 to raise state revenues, presumably for public education. The commitment to public education was formalized in a 1992 amendment directing all lottery proceeds to education.

A disconnect between lottery revenues and disbursements recently became the subject of a review ordered by Gov. Jay Nixon, who noted that although the lottery is collecting more, it is distributing less to education.

An Associated Press story last week reported: “The Lottery had sales of nearly $1.16 billion during the 2014 budget year that ended June 30, marking its fifth straight year of growth and the fourth consecutive year that it set a new high for revenues. Yet the amount transferred to education declined to $267 million this past year from a high of nearly $289 million in 2013.”

Lottery officials explain the seeming anomaly by pointing out proportions of money collected and disbursed will vary, depending on the types of games played and prizes awarded.

Although the review may provide greater clarity, Lottery proceeds for education are unstable, at best, and now in decline.

A competing Veterans Lottery ticket is likely to exacerbate both that instability and decline.

Funding for veterans’ services and projects is laudable, but will the addition of a competing lottery mark a slippery slope? Deserving initiatives abound; what about a lottery to prevent child abuse or assist senior citizens?

Missourians amended the constitution to create a Lottery, ostensibly to fund education, then followed up with an amendment to formalize funding.

Public education in Missouri, however, is hardly flush with funding. Withholds loom and their release still would not fully fund the state’s formula for distributing aid to public schools.

Don’t risk a further drain on education funding.

Reject Amendment 8.

Copyright Jefferson City News Tribune. Reprinted with permission.

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