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N4T Investigators: Where's the Lottery money? - KVOA | KVOA.com | Tucson, Arizona

N4T Investigators: Where's the Lottery money?

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Tucson - A public service announcement from the state lottery says, "The Arizona Lottery. With your help, we're changing lives statewide." And that's true. Since its inception in 1981, the Lottery has given approximately $3.9 billion back to state programs. 

But where exactly are the revenues going?

During the teachers walk-out, many viewers have asked us: "Isn't it supposed to go toward education?" 

So the News 4 Tucson Investigators went to the person in charge of finance for the Tucson Unified School District, Renee Weatherless. We asked her, "How much money does TUSD get from the Arizona State Lottery? 

"Zero," Weatherless said. "We get no lottery revenues allocated to K-12 funding."

Lotteries in 23 states earmark funds for K-12 public education. Arizona is not one of them.

Weatherless said, "A lot of the state lotteries mention education, even the posting on the [Arizona State Lottery] website says that it's funding education. But it's not K-12 education." The revenues go towards the state's universities, as you will see later. 

Viewers have also asked us, "Doesn't some lottery revenue go toward fixing the roads?" Good question, considering 70 percent of  Pima County roads are in "failed" condition.

We asked Carmine DeBonis, Jr., deputy county administrator for Public Works about that. He said, "Today, we do not receive any money from the Arizona Lottery."

Pima County used to receive about $500,000 a year from the Lottery. That could fill a lot of potholes.

But in 2010, Arizona lawmakers repealed that distribution, after the recession. DeBonis said, "The legislature, in attempts to balance budgets during the great recession, went ahead and eliminated this portion of funding that came to the counties, and to cities and towns."

Voters and lawmakers determine how lottery revenues are distributed. Here's how most of the $198 million from Fiscal Year 2017 was distributed: 

Almost $106 million went to the state's General Fund, from which the governor and legislature can spend as they choose.

Nearly $40 million, which on the lottery website is called "Arts & Education", went to the University Bond Fund. Controlled by the Board of Regents, that money is used mainly for campus buildings, academic expansions and research. About $20 million went to Healthy Arizona, which focuses on developing health workforce education programs with an emphasis on improving primary care and increasing access in rural and underserved communities. 

So the next time you wonder why schools and roads are in bad shape, it's not because lottery revenues are being misspent in those categories. There aren't revenues distributed to them.

 Weatherless said TUSD could use the money. "Any additional funding would make a difference."

 DeBonis said, "We would like to have funding to assist with the needs here. We're forced to find other ways to get road repair done."

Speaking of road repairs, earlier this week we reported that the Pima County Board of Supervisors will vote June 19 on a 10-year, half-cent sales tax.

Supporters say if passed, it would provide $550 million to fix all unincorporated roads within 10 years. Also, the 25-cent property tax increase enacted last year would be eliminated.

If you have a story you'd like us to investigate, email us at investigators@kvoa.com or call our tip line at 520-955-4444.

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