Measure would change lottery proceeds distribution

The distribution of lottery proceeds in Nebraska would change under a measure heard Jan. 25 by the General Affairs Committee.

LR380CA, introduced by Hoskins Sen. Dave Bloomfield, would place a proposed change to the division of lottery proceeds on the next general election ballot.

If approved by voters, the amendment to the state constitution would:
• increase from 44.5 to 65 percent the amount designated for education;
• decrease from 44.5 to 26.5 percent the amount designated to the Nebraska Environmental Trust; and
• decrease from 10 to 7.5 percent the amount designated to the Nebraska State Fair Board.

Bloomfield said that education in Nebraska would benefit from additional funding, while the environmental trust appears not to be in need of its current level of funding.

“I know the environmental trust does many good things,” he said, “but they seem to consistently sit on an excess of $30 million. I think they could survive on a little less, just like everyone else [does].”

Scott Japp of Omaha testified in support of the measure, saying an increase in education funding may help to ease the property tax burden on Nebraskans. The environmental trust receives adequate funding, he said, and lottery proceeds could be put to better use.

“I surely think that we can put more funds back into the school system,” Japp said.

Mark Brohman, executive director of the Nebraska Environmental Trust, testified in opposition to the measure. All of the dollars currently in the fund are allocated to ongoing projects aimed at preserving the state’s natural resources, he said.

The trust funds conservation projects in all of Nebraska’s 93 counties, he said, and consistently must turn down grant requests due to lack of funds.

“All of those dollars [in the trust] are spoken for,” Brohman said, “we’re not sitting on a big piggy bank.”

Joseph McDermott, executive director of the Nebraska State Fair, also spoke against the proposal. Voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2004 to allocate 10 percent of lottery proceeds to the state fair, he said, which amounts to approximately $3 to $4 million annually.

McDermott said the fair board has used that money to construct facilities in Grand Island and to promote the fair statewide. The proposed reduction would result in the fair losing $1 million annually, he said.

“Those funds contribute greatly to the success and momentum that the state fair currently enjoys,” he said.

The committee took no immediate action on the proposal.

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