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Lawmakers look to Oregon Lottery revenue for transportation projects

Posted by on December 20th, 2010 at 3:54 pm

Going into the 2011 Oregon Legislative Session, two things are crystal clear: 1) We need more investment in transportation infrastructure, and 2) we don’t have any new revenue to pay for it. Looking to solve this problem, legislators seem to be getting creative.

Last Friday, I shared a bill being put forward by House Representative Jules Bailey (D-Portland). Bailey is supporting a bill that would amend the Oregon Constitution to make it legal to spend gas tax and motor vehicle fees and license revenue on transportation projects that are outside of the highway right-of-way.

Now there’s an idea on the table to funnel Oregon State Lottery revenue into ODOT for use on transportation projects. Our state lottery pulled in $1.1 billion in sales last year. By law, 84 percent of that must go back to the public and of that, 24 percent gets funneled to public programs. Lottery funds are currently used on economic development, public education, and restoration of beaches, watersheds and fish and wildlife habitats.

Legislative Concept 2600 (LC 2600, PDF) would expand that list to include transportation projects. The draft concept that is set to be introduced this session by the Senate Business and Transportation Committee, states that there is “an urgent need to improve and expand the transportation infrastructure.”

Given the language in the LC draft, lawmakers will try to make the case that transportation projects spur economic development and jobs. From the LC draft language:

“Public investment in the transportation infrastructure of this state will promote employment opportunities and stimulate industrial growth and commercial enterprise.

…Improving and expanding the transportation infrastructure of this state will create jobs and further economic development..”

From my reading of the concept it looks like the Lottery money would be bonded and a grant program would be set up through the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP). The grants would be vetted by the Oregon Transportation Commission and local governments from around the state could apply.

Given the passage of the Jobs and Transportation Act of 2009 last session, I don’t think it will be difficult for lawmakers to make the case that transportation projects can stimulate the state economy. What could be difficult however, is making the case that non-highway projects — like bikeway corridors — deserve some of the money.

— For more coverage, see our 2011 Legislative Session story tag.

Note: I have removed a reference to State Senator Bruce Starr (R-Hillsboro). I had originally implied that this bill concept was his idea, but he has notified me that he was simply introducing it on behalf of constituents. Sorry for any confusion

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Thank you — Jonathan

  • Kt December 20, 2010 at 5:03 pm

    Except you’ll see a lot of push-back from people about the deplorable state of our schools, and why don’t we spend all that money on schools instead?

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    • middle of the road guy December 21, 2010 at 10:01 am

      They’ve proven they can’t manage what we keep giving them already.

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  • peejay December 20, 2010 at 5:07 pm

    Ugh. I think everyone’s desperate for repaving money, and when they’re desperate, the last thing they want to spend money on is “frivolous” projects.

    Now, of course we here know that they’re not frivolous at all, and that the more people biking, the longer the roads will last, but tell that to Republicans from Hillsboro — or worse, Eastern Oregon.

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  • peejay December 20, 2010 at 5:15 pm

    Also, 84% ??? I’ve always felt that the state should not be in the gambling business, but it certainly shouldn’t be running games that the mob would feel embarrassed to run themselves. A game of chance that returns 16% of the take to winners is a tax on the stupid.

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    • Elliot December 21, 2010 at 8:49 am

      Oregon Lottery FAQ

      Some highlights:

      The law requires that at least 50% of the Lottery’s total annual sales be returned to the public in the form of prizes.

      By law, no more than 16% of its total annual sales may be used for administrative costs.

      The 16% administrative is where we get the 84%. Not sure how Jonathan got the 24% number; 84% – (50% prizes) -24% (Jonathan) = 10% remaining. Maybe they give higher than minimum payout on some games to average closer to 60% payout.

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  • Another Doug December 21, 2010 at 12:45 pm

    Oh, good. Another subsidy for automobiles. Why is it no surprise that Sen Starr would be looking for more ways to expand roads without charging motor vehicles the cost of doing so?

    It would be okay if bill specified that none of the money could go to projects that otherwise would be eligible for state highway fund use.

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