Batt Vetoes Diversion Of $1 Million In Lottery Funds

Gov. Phil Batt on Monday vetoed legislation diverting $1 million in state lottery profits to parks and recreation facility development.

The governor said the diversion would break faith with the Idaho voters who backed creation of the lottery.

“Although I recognize the beneficial effect which additional park facilities would have within the state, I do not believe this bill carries out the will of Idaho voters,” Batt wrote in his veto message.

The legislation was approved by less than a two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate so Batt’s veto was expected to be sustained if legislative leaders decided to put the issue to a vote.

The bill, pushed by Senate Finance Chairman Atwell Parry, R-Melba, would have diverted 1 percent of the annual lottery receipts to the State Trust for Outdoor Recreation Enhancement, a special fund created by lawmakers in 1995 but never financed.

With lottery sales expected to total around $100 million this year, that was expected to amount to $1 million, and supporters argued that it would have no impact on public or school building projects which share lottery profits. Officials say those profits should top $20 million, meaning there would be plenty of money for those projects and the parks fund.

Supporters also argued that much of the trust money would go to schools anyway since they are the center of recreational activity in most small communities across the state.

But Batt said needed public and school building construction far exceeds the cash being generated by the game and should not be diluted for another purpose.

He said one lottery fund diversion would open the door to a flood of others. “Other proposals have been offered, even in this session,” Batt said. “It seems likely that all lottery profits would be targets for special projects.”

Batt said replacing local efforts to raise cash for recreation projects with a grant from the state does not reward citizen participation, although the trust grants would have required 50 percent in local matching money.

But the governor also used the bill to prove to lawmakers he intended to veto any legislation that threatens the state’s ability to provide adequate support to education.

“Our ability to provide an adequate public school appropriation without raising state general fund taxes is now being tested,” Batt said.

“Taking lottery money from schools puts further strain on the school budget.”

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