More Casino Money Should've Gone to Schools, Montee Says

6 years 7 months 4 weeks ago September 23, 2010 Sep 23, 2010 Thursday, September 23 2010 Thursday, September 23, 2010 5:46:00 PM CDT in News
JEFFERSON CITY - Missourians aren't getting what they voted for, and the state's schools missed out on nearly $21 million in funding this year during a budget crunch, state Auditor Susan Montee said.

State lawmakers eliminated in 2009 some of the requirements in Proposition A, which voters passed a year earlier. The changes include ridding of a provision that extra revenue from lifting the $500 loss limit be sent to schools as additional money, not to replace existing state funding. That cost schools $20.9 million this year, Montee said.

"The legislature (should) consider re-establishing the safeguards approved by voters in Proposition A," Montee wrote in an audit of the Gaming Proceeds for Education Fund.

But not all schools would've benefited from the casino revenue, said Michelle Clark, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

The state's education funding formula may have stopped the money from getting to about 140 of the state's 522 districts, she said.

Tom Schweich, the Republican running against Montee in the November election, declined comment on the audit.

Sen. Rob Mayer, R-Dexter, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, did not return phone calls seeking comment.

The ballot measure passed with 56.2 percent of the vote in 2008, even though no education groups endorsed it. The gaming industry spent millions of dollars to get Proposition A passed.

In addition to lifting loss limits, it increased the tax rate on casinos by one percent. It also banned new casino construction in Missouri, limiting competition to the 12 casinos in operation and the one license the state now holds after shutting down the St. Louis President in July. Four sites, in St. Louis, St. Louis County, Cape Girardeau, and the Kansas City suburb of Sugar Creek, are vying for the license.

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