AUSTIN (CBS 11 I-TEAM) – The Texas lottery is under a microscope.
Why isn’t more money going to education? Who is really playing the lottery?
The joint legislative committee appointed to figure out what’s next for the Texas Lottery peppered state employees and industry leaders Wednesday in Austin.
Scrapping the lottery is a real possibility; especially after an April 2013 Texas House of Representatives vote did just that. The House later came back and re-voted, reviving the commission and the lottery.
Now, if legislators aren’t happy with any of the solutions that come up between now and the next session in January, scrapping the lottery is a real possibility.
The committee that met in Austin today wanted to know why more money from the lottery isn’t being spent in the right places.
For most of the hearing, it was standing room only. People like Joseph Gruniger easily got lost in a room full of suits and ties at today’s legislative hearing. Still, what he said is important to the thousands of employees he manages.
“We have 98 stores,” Joseph Gruniger, Murphy’s Oil Division Manager, testified. “And I made the decision we were going to raise the starting wages of all our cashiers and assistant managers.”
Gruniger oversees all of the Murphy’s Oil convenience stores in the DFW metroplex. He was able to give out those raises this year based on more money coming in from the lottery.
“We take people who are just entering the workforce and we’re giving them a foot in the door allow them to start a career,” Gruniger explained.
Here’s the problem legislators are wrestling with — for decades people have believed that education in Texas was predominantly funded by the lottery.
But last year, the lottery brought in $4.4 billion dollars, with just $1.2 billion going to education. Lottery funds use to fund ten days of public school a year, now it breaks down to three days.
“Very simply, we think that there should be a smart look at the state is financing itself,” Rob Kohler said.
Kohler is with the Baptist Christian Life Commission. He says the problem isn’t just with where the money is going, it’s also who it’s coming from.
“The Texas Lottery has operated in the state of Texas for over 20 years. The data shows that is coming from areas that’s high in public assistance,” Kohler told us.
No final decisions were made today. But the committee is set to put all it’s recommendations together by December.
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