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Editorial: Lottery not the education cash cow we thought

Last Modified: Thursday, February 14, 2013 7:09 PM

Lottery sales are up, and state officials say that’s good news for the Louisiana budget.

But the state hasn’t hit gold.

The lure of large jackpots caused lottery proceeds paid to the state to increase by more than 7 percent in the first half of the 2012-2013 fiscal year over the same time period from the previous fiscal year.

And November 2012 was the best month for the state in the 10-year history of the lottery. A more than $587 million Powerball jackpot spurred the record sales, according to Louisiana Lottery Corp. President Rose Hudson.

The additional money helps, but is no cure for the state’s ongoing budget crisis.

The state gets 35 percent of all lottery sales within its borders. In the first half of this year, the state received about $75.5 million from lottery sales. That’s $8.7 million more than was projected by the Louisiana Revenue Estimating Conference.

But there is an ironic twist to the additional money.

When it was first pitched in the early 1990s, advocates said that the lottery proceeds would be dedicated to education.

That’s where the money is designed to go, but Greg Albrecht of the Legislative Fiscal Office told Gannett News Services earlier this month that excess lottery proceeds do not benefit the state’s Minimum Foundation Program. The MFP helps fund public school districts around the state via a formula that takes into consideration student population and local funding of the district.

In a now-you-see-it, now-you-don’t act, any additional funds that are put into the MFP are eventually subtracted for use in other spots in the budget, according to Albrecht.

The Lottery Corp. has no say in where the money goes once it is sent to the state treasury, according to Lottery spokesman Kathy Spell.

So the next time you buy a lottery ticket and assume that at least a third of the proceeds are going to fund education in Louisiana, you are only partially correct.

In this case, the state giveth and it taketh from the MFP.

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This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Ken Stickney, Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.

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