It’s become a perennial expectation that a senator or representative feels the need to tweak the lottery scholarship formula. They can’t stand to leave it alone.
This year the honor has gone to Sen. Jacob Candelaria, D-Bernalillo. His Senate Bill 283 is titled as limiting the operational expenses and if passed, it would do that. This is assuming no one comes along next year and changes the law again. History dictates, that is likely.
However, it also removes the 30 percent of minimum revenue that would go toward scholarships and replaces it with a flat amount, $40 million.
This annual game of rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic always emerges as a car salesman giving a buyer more for his trade-in, while raising the price of the car.
In this case it’s less revenue toward scholarships but decreasing costs to run the lottery. Historically, the 30 percent minimum in the law has produced about $42 million for college scholarships, which covers about 70 percent of tuition costs.
There appears to be a delicate balance to operating the lottery. On one side you have part of the public wanting more money to go toward scholarships. Lottery players want more and bigger prizes. The lottery commission wants to pay itself more. Those are the expenses mentioned earlier.
Most forget that the lottery was created and allowed to come into law so that it would allow every high school graduate with a minimum grade point average (that has changed over the years) and a desire to go to college the ability to pay their tuition. Along the way the lottery board has wanted bigger prizes to attract more players. To a certain extent that helped in the short run. Then dollar tickets went to $2 tickets. That also helped but not for long.
Amendments to Candelaria’s bill have made it palatable. It does reduce the operating costs to 15 percent over three years.
It also phases in $41 million to scholarships over three years. There is also a sunset clause that reverts the revenue to a 30 percent minimum, if the revenue does not reach $41 million. That would put us back where we are now, with the lower costs.
But it’s a safe bet the bill will be amended again next year swinging costs and revenue in any direction.
The lottery has lost its shine and casinos and racinos have pushed their way into people’s wallets and hearts. This is why the formula gets fiddled with incessantly. How about we leave it alone, leave the qualifying requirements alone and ride it up or down as the economy and prize payouts dictate?
The tinkering is doing no one any good.