The state lottery was not created to fund education

OlympiaMarch 14, 2014 

Recently, there have been several letters that make interesting and incorrect assertations about the state lottery. One of the common claims about the lottery approaches urban myth status—when the Washington State Lottery was passed by the Legislature in 1982, there was no provision mandating or directing levy funds to education.

Lottery proceeds were directed to the state general fund which supports much of state government. In 1982, the state was in the midst of a deep recession and the majority party in the Legislature was looking for ways to increase revenues without raising taxes. Creating a lottery was the alternative they settled on.

The other often-mentioned myth is that state lottery proceeds are adequate to fund Washington’s K-12 schools. In 2013, the lottery generated $116 million for the state. (A 2009 law directs lottery profits to student financial aid—grants and scholarships for college students.) In the current 2013-15 biennium, the state will spend over $15 billion on K-12 education.

Obviously, lottery proceeds are a drop in the bucket when compared with overall education spending. So the next time you hear someone say, “We created the state lottery to fund education,” please tell her/him that is not the case.

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