Pitkin County weighs in on lottery funds | AspenTimes.com

Pitkin County weighs in on lottery funds

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

ASPEN – Pitkin County officials will urge Colorado legislators not to direct the proceeds from a lottery scratch game to help fund veteran support in the state.

County commissioners and members of the Open Space and Trails board of trustees, meeting jointly Tuesday, agreed to send a letter to legislators asking them to protect the historic distribution of lottery proceeds.

State voters in 1992 approved an amendment to the Colorado Constitution establishing Great Outdoors Colorado, or GOCO, to invest in wildlife resources, outdoor recreation, open space and parks across the state.

Lottery proceeds fund Great Outdoors Colorado and the Colorado Conservation Trust, but ongoing state budget shortfalls led to a proposal to put the proceeds from one lottery scratch game toward veterans’ programs.

Commissioners were scheduled to take up a resolution today on the matter, but Dale Will, Open Space and Trails director, urged county officials to send a letter Tuesday in order to reach a legislative committee scheduled to take up the proposal today. He was directed to draft the letter.

Choosing between use of lottery proceeds for existing purposes versus another pressing need is difficult, conceded Commissioner Rachel Richards, but she predicted there would be no shortage of causes for the money if the state opens that door.

“You could find a thousand reasons to put GOCO dollars somewhere else,” she said. “I just see this as a slippery slope that you can’t start down, saying it will be just this one cause.”

“We shouldn’t diminish a successful program by undermining it,” Commissioner Jack Hatfield agreed.

According to a memo to commissioners from Will, Great Outdoors Colorado has invested more than $757 million in lottery funds into conserving open space, building trails and other projects around the state.

More than $10.6 million has gone toward Pitkin County efforts in open space acquisition, conservation and other uses.

The state lottery is Great Outdoors Colorado’s single source of funding, capped at $35 million annually. Excess proceeds go into the State Public School Fund.


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