With Veto, Need-based Scholarships Still Millions Short of "Powerball Promise"
FRANKFORT, Ky. – It's known as the "Powerball promise" in Kentucky – lottery money going to education, and state law requiring more than half of it to be used for need-based scholarships.
But for years lawmakers have swept millions of dollars earmarked for the College Access Program (CAP) and the Kentucky Tuition Grant Program into the state's general fund.
Dustin Pugel, a research and policy associate with the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, says the General Assembly's new two-year budget was going to come close to meeting the statutory requirement before more than $40 million in line-item vetoes by Gov. Matt Bevin.
Pugel says the changes will keep the state far short of full lottery funding for need-based aid.
"The House and Senate had, more or less, fulfilled the Powerball promise and with the veto of sections of HB 10, there are 22,000 fewer students who are going to be able to take advantage of those scholarships," he points out.
Bevin says the budget "dedicates all available lottery proceeds entirely to education, as originally promised to Kentuckians."
But, Pugel says the final budget does not spend the lottery dollars as the law originally intended, instead redirecting funds to other education programs, including dual credit and Work Ready Kentucky Scholarships.
Bevin says that is an "appropriate" use of lottery funds.
University of Kentucky senior Brooke Stewart says she's "very grateful" for the CAP money she's been able to get, convincing her the program deserves full funding.
"I was just truly disappointed that education assistance wasn't at the top of his (governor's) priority list,” she states. “I have friends that have taken semesters off just because they could not afford it."
Pugel says more money for need-based scholarships is crucial with state funding to the state's public colleges and universities being cut and tuition going up, again.
"As it stands, neither Work Ready nor the dual credit scholarships are need-based,” he stresses. “So, we can't even really say that that money is going to low-income students who really are in the most need of assistance to be able to have the opportunity for higher education."
Pugel acknowledges that even with the governor's veto, need-based scholarships will still get a $15 million bump in the new budget to around $199 million over two years.
He also hopes that $9.4 million in lottery money freed up by Bevin's one-year delay of the Work Ready Program will be redirected to need-based aid.