Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Lottery-for-education measure gets House committee OK

Legislation that would prohibit the General Assembly from diverting state lottery funds away from Kentucky’s need- and merit-based scholarship programs has cleared a House committee.

House Joint Resolution 100, sponsored by Rep. James Kay, D-Versailles, would require that all Kentucky Lottery proceeds be appropriated as required under current law. That law stipulates that net proceeds be split 55/45 between the state’s need-based scholarship programs and the KEES (Kentucky Educational Excellence) merit scholarship program respectively each fiscal year after $3 million is set aside for literacy programs.

“In every budget recently we have diverted around $30 million each year from the need-based programs,” known as the College Access Program (CAP) and the Kentucky Tuition Grants (KTG) program, said Kay. The result, Kay said, is fewer students with money for college.

“Student loan debt … is a growing burden that faces every student that wants to go to school, but more importantly, (it affects) the poor students who can’t afford assistance from their parents, who can’t afford the time to work for an ever-growing tuition,” said Kay.

Had money not been diverted from need-based scholarships in 2015, an additional 15,000 students could have been served, according to HJR 100.

House Minority Whip Jim DeCesare, R-Bowling Green, noted that Gov. Matt Bevin has said lottery proceeds over the next biennium “would go toward education, 100 percent” including money for workforce development scholarships. Kay said he is waiting for that funding proposal to be outlined in the budget.

“I’m not against the governor and his proposal; I’m not against workforce development. I’m for the principle that we do what we are required to do by law,” said Kay.

DeCesare passed on voting on the measure, saying he believes the Governor needs a “little leeway” on his proposal. “I’d like to hear more before we act too hastily on a piece of legislation that may deter something that may be a good thing down the road,” he said.

HJR 100 now goes to the full House for consideration. If passed by both chambers, it would have the force of law.