Record lottery sales weaken case to cut scholarships, Berke says

Record lottery sales weaken case to cut scholarships, Berke says

February 29th, 2012 by Andy Sher in Local - Breaking News

Tennessee Education Lottery Corp. President and CEO Rebecca Hargrove

Tennessee Education Lottery Corp. President and CEO Rebecca...

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

NASHVILLE - A new state lottery report that shows record sales undercuts arguments for the need of a bill seeking to slash by half lottery-funded scholarships for some students, state Sen. Andy Berke, D-Chattanooga, said today.

"One of the most important economic drivers we have right now is getting more people through college," Berke said. "It is short-sighted and a mistake to cut lottery scholarships at a time when revenues are increasing and we have no idea whether there's going to be any future problem."

Earlier, Tennessee Lottery President Rebecca Hargrove told the Republican-controlled Senate Education Committee that net lottery proceeds for the Hope Scholarship program were $10 million above projections for the first seven months of the fiscal year.

Lottery officials said the lottery has set record gross sales each month since July. Education proceeds have increased 4 percent since 2005.

Majority Republicans are pushing a bill that would cut lottery scholarship awards for students who don't achieve both a 21 on their ACT and a 3.0 high school grade point average. Currently, they only need one or the other.

The bill's sponsor, Senate Education Committee Chairman Delores Gresham, R-Somerville, said the growth isn't enough to deter her from moving ahead with the measure. Scholarship demands still exceed revenues, she argued.

"We are very fortunate that we have enough reserves right now to carry us a few years, but you cannot keep spending more than you're taking in," Gresham told reporters after Hargrove's presentation.

Read more in tomorrow's Times Free Press.