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Supplanting Or Shell Game: The Fight Over Lottery Money and Education Funding

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Lottery profits are supposed to go to education. Critics, however, say lawmakers are engaged in a bait and switch.

Officially, it is called supplanting: Removing money from the general fund for education because of all that cash coming in from the lottery.

Unofficially, critics call it a shell game and it’s something that Democratic Senator Jennifer McClellan says should be a thing of the past. “Too often we’ve cut the general fund toward education to offset what’s coming in through the lottery," McClellan says. "But I think you saw with the last session that we’re beginning to turn that around and recognize that lottery money is supposed to be extra for public education.”

Chris Duncombe of the Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis says the governor’s proposed budget supplanted $80 million. The Senate version of the budget followed suit. But, he says, the House budget returns $64 million to the general fund for education.

“The House version makes strong progress in using the Lottery as it was originally intended," Duncombe says, "as a supplement to the general fund investment in education as opposed to just a replacement or a substitute.”

Duncombe says he hopes the budget that emerges from the negotiations over the next few weeks will have less supplanting money for education and more supplementing it.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.