Lottery cuts, spending in all the wrong places

There are two things that are important to say about Arkansas lottery hijacker and State Sen. Jimmy Hickey’s new eligibility requirements. First of all, these changes could be viewed as proper adjustments to how this gambling money is distributed in a manner that can be deemed most efficient. Second, while the changes can be justified as a means to adjust to less-than-anticipated lottery proceeds to the scholarship fund we then ask why similar cost-cutting measures weren’t taken in regard to lottery salaries, benefits and perks? Let’s recap the situation by reminding our readers that Hickey cleverly snatched control of this money-making operation by convincing his buddy Gov. Asa Hutchinson and fellow Republicans to abolish the independent lottery commission comprised of appointees of then Gov. Mike Beebe. He then maneuvered it so the lottery would be under control of a special legislative oversight committee and under the control of the bureaucrats within the state’s Department of Finance and Administration. Hickey also convinced the powers-to-be to spend thousands of dollars on a private consulting firm that was hired to come up with ways for the lottery to make more money. Let us point out that lottery revenue and net proceeds for college scholarships have declined each of the last three fiscal years, though during the first five months in fiscal 2016 they’ve exceeded figures for the same period in fiscal 2015. A one-time lawyer for the lottery and now its director, Bishop Woosley is now projecting that revenue will be $411 million and net proceeds for scholarships will be $79.5 million in fiscal 2016 — up from revenue of $409.2 million and net proceeds of $72.4 million in fiscal 2015. So then, Hickey’s so-called “oversight” committee thinks that by reducing the scholarship size for future recipients from $2,000 to $1,000 for the freshman year at a two-and four-year colleges will be what they say is a necessity. Now then, scholarships will increase from $3,000 to $4,000 for the sophomore year at four-year colleges and from $2,000 to $3,000 for the sophomore year at two-year colleges. We’re told scholarship recipients will receive $4,000 as junior and $5,000 as senior at the four-year colleges. Oh, let’s not forget to say that under Hickey’s encouragement, lawmakers also endorsed legislation that now requires high school graduates to have ACT scores of at least 19 or the equivalent on comparable college entrance exams to be eligible for a scholarship. High school graduates previously were required to have completed the Smart Core curriculum and achieved either a high school grade-point average of at least 2.5 or a minimum score of 19 on the ACT or its equivalent. Let us make it clear that Hickey’s followers say these changes will help guard against the scholarship program running short of funds. Well, while that may be true the same could be said of meaningful cuts within the lottery system itself other than those that have been previously made under the transformation to the DF&A. We’d also be interested to know if the thousands of lottery dollars that now have been invested in the hiring of this private consulting firm actually produces the results that justify the cost. We shall see, won’t we?

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