Gov. Doug Ducey said investment in teacher salaries has increased 9 percent since 2015. Is he right? AZ Fact Check takes a look.
As educators, parents and the public focus on school funding, a consistent question has emerged.
What happened to all the Arizona Lottery money that’s supposed to be going directly to K-12 education?
The short answer: It doesn’t existand never did.
Here’s the longer answer:
Since the Arizona Lottery’s launch on July 1, 1981, its sales revenue has totaled about $12 billion, with about $3.7 billion of that directed back into state funds and programs.
The rest of the money is spent on prizes, commissions for retailers and running the Lottery.
Neither voters nor lawmakers ever created a state law requiring any of the lottery revenue to go directly into K-12 education.
Arizona voters and the Legislature dictate how lottery revenue is spent. Over the past 37 years, voters and lawmakers have set conflicting goals.
Voters have indicated they wanted the revenue to fund state parks, transit projects and social-service programs.
Starting during the Great Recession and continuing once it ended, state leaders have swept more and more lottery revenue into the general fund. More lottery revenue overall has gone to the general fund than to support specific programs.
Where the money really goes
An Arizona Republic analysis of 37 years of Arizona Lottery revenue and disbursements found that about $1.8 billion in lottery revenue has gone to the specific programs voters and lawmakers designated. Here’s which programs got what:
- Local transportation projects, about $802 million.
- Economic development efforts, $208 million.
- The Game and Fish Department Heritage Fund, which supports outdoor recreation and protects critical wildlife, $404 million.
- Health and welfare programs, including teen-pregnancy prevention and food assistance for children and mothers, $260 million.
- The Court Appointed Special Advocates program for foster children, $40 million.
- Homeless shelters, $10 million.
As annual lottery revenue has grown over the years, the money allocated to these programs has remained relatively stagnant because of limits the Legislature and voters set.
Transportation programs got less in 2015 than they did in 1982. Counties for years got $7.6 million a year, but since 2011 have gotten nothing. The Game and Fish Department Heritage Fund got $10 million in 2015, compared with the $20 million a year it got during the 1990s and 2000s.
The real winner in Arizona’s lottery game has been the general fund.
The general fund over the past 37 years has received $1.9 billion, but it’s impossible to track how it’s spent.
Before the recession, the general fund received about $30 million a year. Over the past several years, the annual allocation has topped $100 million.
In fiscal year 2017, $106 million went into the general fund.
The general fund revenue might have gone to education and public-welfare programs as lawmakers promised and the Lottery has marketed, or it might have gone to private prisons and tax credits.
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