Kerr supports state lottery for schools
By Barbara Arntsen
Published in News on April 8, 2005 1:46 PM
Sen. John Kerr wasn't surprised that the state House of Representatives passed a lottery bill earlier this week.
It was a total shift, Kerr said, from previous House votes, but the timing is right.
"I think that people are ready to get behind the bill," Kerr said.
A lot of high-powered people worked behind the scenes on the House bill, he added.
"It's a big step for the state," Kerr said. "And for a long time, the political situation has kept it from passing."
The lottery legislation approved by the House would dedicate profits to school construction, scholarships and other education initiatives.
The bill also bans lottery advertising anywhere except where the tickets are sold.
Kerr supports the idea of a lottery for education, but says the Senate isn't familiar with all the particulars of the recently passed House bill.
He does agree with the bill's proposal to ban advertising.
"We haven't looked at the bill in-depth but the conventional wisdom around the Senate was that we would look at it if it passed, and then set up a committee to study it further," he said.
If the state does approve a lottery, the money should be used properly, Kerr said.
"We all have ideas about it," he said. "If I were king, I'd like to have some of the money used for infrastructure."
Education should be top priority, however, he said.
"We've got a lot of needs with low-wealth schools in the state," he said. "A lot of needs."
Kerr said there's a chance that the Senate might substitute its own version of a lottery bill, but acknowledged that could be dangerous.
"There's some political danger in sending it back over to the House," he said. "It might not pass a second time."
The Senate has already passed a lottery bill on several previous occasions, but the process was always stopped by the House.
"It's a very important decision that the House made, and hopefully for the best," he said.
If the bill does pass through the Senate quickly, a lottery still wouldn't generate enough money to close the $1 billion projected shortfall in the state budget.
"We could get some money this year, maybe $80 or $90 million, from the scratch and win tickets you often see at convenience stores," Kerr said. "It's time to look at this."
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