It appears that Gov. Sonny Perdue plans to raid the lottery proceeds used to fund the HOPE Scholarship and pre-k, something I dare say he would not do if he wasn’t about to get out of Dodge.
There is a lively e-mail exchange among supporters of pre-k, who discovered deep in the proposed budget that the governor is substituting lottery funds for state general revenues for about $34 million in special scholarships and tuition grants awarded by the state each year. (I am adding this note on Sunday; There is a great story on this HOPE issue in the Sunday AJC,.)
According to pages 348 to 350 of Perdue’s budget, it appears the governor is proposing to use lottery monies for such things as:
-The HERO scholarships -$800,000.
-Leveraging Educational Assistance Partnership Program–$966,757
-North Ga. Military Scholarship Grants—$1,502,800 and
-North Georgia ROTC Grants–$652,479.
The question on the e-mail chain: Is it legal? Yes, the lottery is designed to fund education and scholarships, but its main beneficiaries are supposed to be pre-k and HOPE. While these other scholarships are clearly educational, they had been funded from non-lottery education dollars in the past.
Can the governor now use lottery funds not to supplement, but to supplant funding for established programs? The Constitution would appear to say not, since it specifies that the net proceeds of the lottery “shall be used to supplement, not supplant. non-lottery educational resources for educational programs and purposes.”
What is odd about diverting lottery funds is that we have a rise in students using HOPE Scholarships and HOPE grants, which underwrite technical school educations, and we need more pre-k spots.
Disconcerting to pre-k advocates is the continued slighting of early childhood education in this state, which was a pioneer in the effort but has slackened its pace and its support.
On Saturday night, I am adding this review of the issue by Atlanta attorney Emmet J. Bondurant, who gave me permission to share his observations, which he made as part of the e-mail exchange among pre-k advocates and some legislators:
The following example is a much larger, but less obvious example of the Governor’s use of lottery funds to supplant general revenue funds for education:
The Governor has supplanted $84, 513, 623 of his total cuts of $133,662.980 in the appropriation to the Board of Regents from general revenues for FY 2011. (Budget page 12), by increasing the appropriation for HOPE Scholarships-Public Schools by $84,513,623. Thus, $84, million in lottery dollars are supplanting a majority of the $133. 6 million cut in general revenue appropriations for higher public education.
Although more attenuated, the Governor has done essentially the same thing when he supplanted the $29,765,194 in Tuition Equalization grants that previously came from general revenues to “promote the private segment of higher education in Georgia by providing non-repayable grant in aid to Georgia residents to attend eligible private post secondary schools” such as Emory, Mercer and Morehouse, by increasing the HOPE Scholarships-Private Schools by $35,614,898 which will go to the same private colleges and universities.
The Georgia Constitution provides in Art. 1 sec. 2, para. 8 that the Governor has broad authority to “make specific recommendations as to the educational programs and educational purposes to which said net proceeds [from the Georgia Lottery] shall be appropriated.”
The Constitution also states that the General Assembly “shall appropriate all net proceeds of the lottery… by such separate budget category [in the General Appropriations Act] to educational programs and educational purposes.” Art. 1, sec. 2, para. 8(c). A literal reading of this language would mean that the General Assembly is constitutionally required to appropriate annually “all net proceeds of the lottery” for educational purposes, in excess of the 10% constitutional educational reserve specified in Art. 1, sec 2, para. 8(c)(3) and the statutory educational shortfall reserve of __% specified in OCGA _____.
A literal reading of the Constitution would lead to the conclusion that the governor have been illegally accumulating more than $600 million in an unrestricted lottery surplus account that should have been appropriated to fully fund Pre-K since HOPE is already fully funded…The Governor and the General Assembly have not, however, interpreted Art. 1, sec. 2, para. 8 literally as requiring the General Assembly to appropriate annually the full amount (i.e. “all net proceeds of the lottery”) in excess of the constitutional and statutory reserves. The General Assembly has in practice appropriated only the amount of lottery reserves “recommended” by the Governor in his annual budget. This practice ignores the fact that the Constitution expressly states that Governor’s budget is only a “recommendation” as well as the specific language in the Constitution that plainly states that the General Assembly “shall appropriate all net proceeds of the lottery”‘ for the educational purposes specified in the constitution–”tuition grants, scholarships or loans to citizens [of Georgia].. to attend colleges or universities” in Georgia [Art. 1, sec. 2, para. 8(c)(1)] or
voluntary Pre K. id Art. 1.
To address the specific question which is raised by your e-mail – whether the governor and the General Assembly can use lottery funds to replace the appropriates from non-lottery general revenues that were previously used to fund college scholarships and tuition equalization grants, the answer is that this use of lottery funds is expressly prohibited by Art. 1, sec. 2, para. 8 of the Constitution that specifically provides that “such net proceeds [of the Georgia lottery] shall be used to supplement, not supplant, non-lottery educational resources for educational programs and purposes.”
Assuming that you have interpreted the Governor’s budget correctly, the Governor’s proposal to appropriate net lottery proceeds to fund college scholarships and tuition grants that were previously funded from general revenues would be ultra vires and a direct violation of the express limitation on the uses of lottery funds set forth in Art. 1, sec. 2, para. 8 of the Georgia Constitution.
Since it is unlikely that the Governor himself or any department head in the executive branch is likely to be willing to do so, I would suggest that one or more members of the General Assembly write the Attorney General requesting an official opinion as to whether the Governor’s budget proposal that a portion of the lottery reserves be used to fund scholarships and tuition grants previously funded out of the general fund is constitutional.
The same letter might also request an opinion as to whether the General Assembly is bound by the literal wording of Art. 1, sec. 2, para. 8 and is required to appropriate the full amount of the unrestricted lottery surplus each year for college scholarships and Pre K, instead of whatever paltry amount may be recommended by the Governor.