Return the lottery money to localities

Published 12:16 pm Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Lunenburg County Board of Supervisors voted at its meeting earlier this month to support a proposal to have a portion of lottery sales returned to the general fund of the localities where the sales originated.

Though they voted to support it, members of the board said they don’t expect the proposal to be adopted by the state. “If it does pass, I guarantee you they’ll find a way to get the money back,” Supervisor Robert Zava said.

Maybe so. But, as board members and county officials noted, it doesn’t hurt to ask or try.

And we agree.

Nottoway County officials approached the supervisors and the councils for the towns of Kenbridge and Victoria about supporting the proposal calling for 5-percent of total lottery sales to be returned to the general fund of the localities where the sales originated.

The petition is signed by the mayors of the towns of Crewe, Burkeville and Blackstone and the chairman of the Nottoway County Board of Supervisors and is addressed to Sen. Frank Ruff and Del. Tommy Wright Jr.

Del. James Edmunds has already said he supports the effort, noting, “It’s going to help every county in rural Virginia.”

The petition “envisioned the allocation will be culled from total sales and subtracted from the portion of the lottery pool designated as the ‘prize pool’ (approximately 60.6 percent of sales.) In this way, the public school funding allocation (approximately 29 percent of sales) is untouched.”

And here may be supporters’ main point: “No monies are diverted from public education by our formula.”

Just as importantly, the letter notes, “The revenue infusion a ‘Lottery for Localities’ can provide to local governments will have a positive impact for cash-strapped rural counties facing an ever shrinking business and community tax base while demands for public services rise. We feel this is a discussion that needs to be initiated across the commonwealth with local governments and state officials.”

By returning the funds based on sales and not per capita “we in the locality only see a percentage of what we generated in our localities,” the letter said.

The truth is, rural areas have long felt like they have been given short shrift — their concerns and needs ignored and precious resources more than likely to be sent to urban areas with growing political clout. This effort, supporters believe, would be a step toward correcting that long standing problem.

Meanwhile, Lunenburg County Administrator Tracy Gee noted lottery officials have said the change might reduce lottery purchases, but, “I don’t think it would deter people from buying lottery tickets.”

We don’t either.

What we do believe is that this is something that should at least be considered and discussed.

We agree with  county leaders: it doesn’t hurt to ask.