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State Capitol Week in Review

Posted Tuesday, December 18, 2012, at 1:57 PM

LITTLE ROCK - The Arkansas lottery scholarship program reached a

milestone last week. It was announced that $300 million in college

scholarships had been awarded since the lottery began three years ago.

More than 90,000 Arkansas students have received an Academic Challenge

Scholarship in those three years.

The state lottery sold $475 million in tickets in Fiscal 2012. After

paying out prizes, advertising and covering administrative expenses,

what money remains goes for Academic Challenge Scholarships for students at Arkansas four-year universities and two-year colleges.

Last fiscal year the lottery raised $97.5 million for college

scholarships for Arkansas students. The director of the lottery has

lowered his estimate for this year, from about $98 million to about $90 million.

Sales of lottery tickets were boosted last week because of a record

Powerball prize of $587.5 million, but the long-term trend has been for sales to gradually drop as the initial enthusiasm wears off.

Other factors that influence lottery ticket sales are the unemployment

rate and inflation, especially in gasoline prices.

The first full year the lottery was Fiscal 2011, when $464 million in

tickets were sold. The first Arkansas lottery tickets were sold in

September of 2009, and $373 million in tickets were sold in the nine

months of the first fiscal year that the Arkansas lottery was in

operation.

The first group of students to get lottery scholarships received $5,000

if they attended a four-year university and $2,500 if they studied at

two-year colleges.

However, the legislature later had to lower the amounts by 10 percent,

to $4,500 and $2,250, to make sure there would be enough money

available.

Further reductions in scholarship amounts are possible when the

legislature convenes in regular session in January. The director of the state Higher Education Department has said that if $90 million a year for scholarships comes in, amounts would have to decrease to $3,300 and $1,650 per student per year.

Another proposal would gradually raise scholarship amounts for each year the student stays in college or university. Under the proposal, a freshman would receive $2,000 for the year, a sophomore $3,000, a junior $4,000 and a senior $5,000.

Students who in 2010 were awarded $5,000 for attending a four-year

university or $2,500 to attend a two-year college will continue to

receive those amounts as long as they maintain their eligibility.

Similarly, students who first qualified for $4,500 and $2,250 will

continue to receive those amounts throughout their college career, as

long as they keep up their grades.

New Veterans Home

Legislation has been drafted to authorize the building of a new

veterans nursing home in Little Rock, to replace the facility that was

closed earlier this year. The 70 residents were moved to other nursing

homes.

Repairs to the facility, including heating, cooling, heating and air

conditioning would have cost an estimated $10 million. The director of the state Veterans Affairs Department was replaced after reports of

financial mismanagement surfaced earlier this year. A House bill has

been filed to authorize construction of a new home with space for up to 150 people.

The state also operates a veterans nursing home in Fayetteville.



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State Capital Week in Review
By Senator David Burnett
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