Last week the Joint Budget Committee at the Arkansas Legislature filed S.B. 93 appropriating public funds for the Department of Higher Education.
The bill is a fairly standard budget measure providing funds for the state Department of Higher Education’s staff, scholarships, and grants. However, the measure allocates $25 million to help pay for a scholarship the Arkansas Lottery is supposed to fund.
Many Arkansans do not realize that since the Arkansas Lottery passed in 2008, the Arkansas Legislature has been forced to make up for the lottery’s shortcomings by continuing to budget millions in taxpayer funding to supplement the Academic Challenge Scholarship each year.
When the Arkansas Lottery was established, the state was assured lottery proceeds would provide $100 million per year in scholarship funding. Instead, the Arkansas Lottery has consistently fallen millions of dollars short of that goal.
As a result, the Arkansas Legislature has supplemented Academic Challenge with funding from the state.
S.B. 93 gives the Academic Challenge Scholarship $25 million in state funding for Fiscal Year 2020 — the same amount as budgets from previous years.
The Arkansas Lottery rolled out more gambling more quickly than any other lottery we know of in America. Its administrative costs have routinely been high, and it has consistently budgeted a smaller percentage of its revenue for students than other state lotteries do.
The fact that the Arkansas Legislature has to spend million of dollars in taxpayer money making up for these deficiencies year after year is a reminder of what a disappointment the State Lottery has turned out to be for Arkansas.