Denver — State Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, introduced a resolution on Monday that would ask voters to allow the State Legislature to divert lottery proceeds from the Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) fund to education instead.
The ballot measure would be on the 2020 General Election ballot.
Beginning in the third quarter of the 2020-2021 fiscal year, net proceeds — after bond payments — from the GOCO fund could transfer into the state education fund if legislators prioritized education above parks.
In 2018, GOCO received $66,250,998 from lottery proceeds.
GOCO funds historically are distributed state-wide to municipalities and land trusts for parks, trails, wildlife, rivers and open spaces.
“We have enough outhouses at soccer fields,” Sonnenberg said in a news release. “The state has spent billions of dollars on parks and recreation, and now it is time to make education funding a state priority. Let’s allow the voters to decide which is a higher priority – education or recreation.”
The changes would be an amendment to the Colorado Constitution and require 55 percent of the vote to pass.
Sonnenberg told Complete Colorado that he’s anxious to see the conversation that develops around the resolution, but he’s concerned the resolution will either never be heard or die in committee — if for no reason other than because it was introduced by a Republican.
Sonnenberg ran a similar resolution in 2010 that was opposed by teachers unions because they said the amount of money is “not enough,” Sonnenberg said.
But Sonnenberg said money has to come from somewhere and this is good place to start if it’s what the people of Colorado want.
“This is not a new concept,” Sonnenberg said. “People are always asking, ‘What about the marijuana money? What about the (lottery) money?’ This will just allow us another option.”
The bill, which will likely pit environmentalists against education-funding activists, would not do away with GOCO, it would simply allow the legislature to decide on a yearly basis how much money from lottery sales would go to education and how much would go to parks and recreation.
There are no rules that require a resolution to be heard either in committee or on the floor. Therefore, depending on how Senate President Leroy Garcia, a Democrat, handles it, the resolution may just sit on the Senate Secretary’s desk for the remainder of the session. It could be assigned to a committee or it could go straight to the floor for a full vote of the Senate.
Sonnenberg, whose northeast Colorado district comprises 11 counties and is home to more than one-quarter of Colorado’s 178 school districts, said it’s time to use whatever resources can be found to help fund education.
“If we want to really make education a priority, perhaps we ought to give people a chance to vote on it,” Sonnenberg said.