Lottery money is the sugar in the Oregon budget. There’s $1.1 billion in lottery money in this biennium and everybody wants it.
One plan hungry for a share would dedicate 9 percent of net lottery proceeds to mass transit, passenger rail, and bicycle and pedestrian transportation. Senate Bill 247 would also allocate another 9 percent to air, rail (other than passenger) and marine projects.
It’s not a good idea.
Some changes in how lottery money is dedicated require a public vote by Oregonians. Not this one. SB 247 says the 18 percent would be taken out of the 25 percent share of lottery proceeds already dedicated to promoting economic development.
Advocates can find projects they believe would be a wise use of the money that would be provided under this bill. But why is 9 percent funding the magic number?
Why not 10 percent? Why not 3?
During a public hearing on the bill this week, there was no justification for the 9 percent numbers in the bill. Shouldn’t there be?
The serious problem with the bill is that it sets a fixed percentage. Every year the state has different needs and priorities. Should we lock lawmakers and decision makers into only having a fixed percentage of dedicated funding? No. What if the best option for enhancing economic development in Oregon is something other than 18 percent for transportation?
Lawmakers should be able to make decisions about how to spend the state’s lottery dollars on economic development without being bound by an arbitrary percentage for transportation. Economic development projects should be ranked and rated against each other with no artificial tilt.
Sen. Lee Beyer, D-Springfield, chairman of the Senate Business and Transportation Committee, told The Oregonian he doesn’t expect SB 247 to pass this session. As it is, we would hope it wouldn’t pass in any session.