Constitutional Amendment 8
Title: Missouri Veterans Lottery Ticket Amendment (HJR 48)
What It Is:
A constitutional amendment which would lead to the creation of a new lottery ticket to fund veterans' programs. If passed, the new lottery’s profits would go into a trust fund that aids veteran homes and outreach programs; the new ticket would be available no later than July 1, 2015. The measure would amend Article III, Section 39(b) of the Missouri Constitution.
General Assembly Vote:
Senate: 27-4 (87% Yes & 13% No)
House: 132-10 (93% Yes & 7% No)
The Veterans Commission runs nursing homes and serves more than 1,300 people. Revenues dipped in recent years when the legislature tapped into the commission’s trust fund in order to make up for declining general revenue appropriations. Rep Sheila Solon – the bill’s primary sponsor – says that the lottery will provide a “dedicated funding source for cash-strapped veterans’ homes” without raising taxes. “"We need to take care of our veterans because they have done so much for us, for our country, and for our state,” says Solon, “And this is the least that we can do for them to make sure that we fund our veterans homes, our veteran's cemeteries, and our outreach programs."
Four other states (Illinois, Iowa, Kansas and Texas) have special lotteries for veterans' programs.
- Rep. Sheila Solon (R-31) - Sponsor
- Rep. Charlie Davis (R-162) – Co-sponsor
- Rep. Stephen Webber (D-46) – Co-sponsor
- Rep. Keith English (D-68) – Co-sponsor
- Rep. John Mayfield (D-20) – Co-sponsor
- Rep. Jim Hansen (R-40) – Co-sponsor
- Rep. Marsha Haefner (R-95) – Co-sponsor
- Rep. John Diehl (R-89) – Co-sponsor
- Rep. Steve Lynch (R-122) – Co-sponsor
- Rep. Denny Hoskins (R-54) – Co-sponsor
- Rep. Elaine Gannon (R-155) – Co-sponsor
- Rep. Sue Allen (R-100) – Co-sponsor
- Rep. Noel Torpey (R-29) – Co-sponsor
- Rep. Sandy Crawford (R-129) – Co-sponsor
Democrats fear that the new lottery could take money away from public schools and higher education—currently the only recipients of lottery proceeds—with players choosing to buy veteran lottery tickets rather than education lottery tickets. Studies from other states seem to validate this zero-sum notion, as increasing the number of state lotteries has not led to an increase in lottery tickets sold. Others, like Rep. Jeremy LaFaver of Kansas City, believe that the lottery is “an inefficient way to fund government.”
Conservatives may contend that profiting off citizens’ gambling losses is an irresponsible way to address governmental problems. Rather than fixing the real issue—wasteful spending and anti-growth tax policies which result in a lack of general state funds—legislators are essentially passing the buck by instigating a new lottery. Additionally, the description of how exactly these funds will be used to benefit veterans is extremely vague (“the proceeds...are to be deposited in the veterans commission capital improvement trust fund”).
Lottery critics such as the Tax Foundation’s Alicia Hansen “argue that lotteries are a form of regressive taxation because people with low-income spend a greater percentage of their income on lotteries than people with higher incomes...research has shown that lotteries are disproportionately played by people with lower-incomes, less education and the unemployed.” They assert that when a high percentage of people in lower economic circumstances gamble an inordinate amount of their income, the costs required to care for their families increases — costs borne by all taxpayers. The money the state gains from lotteries, then, is often offset by the money it loses on welfare programs for lottery participants.