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Tenn. delays spending lottery funds

Jul 1, 2004, 8:12 am

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Tennessee LotteryTennessee Lottery: Tenn. delays spending lottery funds

Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen said Wednesday that the spending of lottery dollars on early learning and after school programs won't occur until next year.

The upstart Tennessee Education Lottery Corporation (TEL) after only five months ended the fiscal year Thursday with more than $120 million in net ticket proceeds, earning what was needed to fund the full $88 million in college scholarships expected in the fall semester.

However, Bredesen says the state would likely wait until final estimates are set by the state Funding Board in December before allocating funds for early learning or after school means.

"I'm not anxious to with the first transfer and with five months of the lottery under out belt go off and make decisions about the long term use of that money. I want to see a little more history in the thing," said Bredesen.

Under the lottery referendum approved by Tennessee voters in 2002 any "excess" lottery proceeds after the full funding of college scholarships may be spent on early learning and after school programs.

The TEL board earlier this week approved a $200 million projection for next year's ticket sales - a figure that would roughly cover only the full year in scholarships.

However, by most accounts the number is conservative and officials think there will be excess funding available.

The General Assembly appropriated roughly $8 million for early learning and $2 million for after school programs in Bredesen's recently passed budget.

Assuming the lottery garners that amount of excess the administration would have the ability to spend it.

State Sen. Steve Cohen (D-Memphis), the chief legislative architect of the state's upstart lottery, says there is little doubt the lottery would achieve the $8 million and $2 million in excess. But waiting until proceed trends are more apparent is a good idea, said Cohen.

"I feel very confident that money is going to be available on a recurring basis," he said.

The Legislature this past session also raised scholarship standards for students. While the initial requirement was a 3.0 grade point average and 19 ACT score the new standard will require a 3.0 or 21 ACT.

This higher standard will allow for more excess in funding early learning and after school programs in the future, says Cohen.

The change could mean as much as $20 to $25 million in excess funds, according to Cohen.

Nashville City Paper

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