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Bet on it: Lottery says it will deliver its $1.324 billion

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Sunday, March 01, 2009

SALEM Despite what the state predicts, the Oregon Lottery still plans to provide the budgeted $1.324 billion to support state schools, parks and natural resources, job creation, and gambling treatment programs.

The lottery revenue started slumping last fall with weekly drops of from $800,000 to $4 million. Oregon state economist Tom Potiowsky forecasts that lottery revenues will be off by more than $35 million for the 2007-2009 budget.  

But the lottery disagrees. Spokeswoman Mary Loftin says the lottery is on track to generate the budgeted $1.324 billion. So far, the lottery has provided the state with $1.165 billion, with one quarter left to go. If the lottery fails to meet its allocation goals, Loftin believes it will be by $10 million or less.

Agency budget cuts, new lottery games and advanced planning for revenue losses related to the smoking ban have helped to offset revenue losses. The agency also instituted a 5% budget cut internally, on par with other state agencies, although as a self-funded entity the cut was not mandated by the state. “It’s little dollars — $50 here, $80 there,” says Loftin. “We are doing everything we can to find every dime possible.”    

That money is especially important for already-struggling schools, as well as economic development programs. With some districts considering shortening their school year, cutting staff and even closing entire schools, the allocation of the full $936 million to the education system is critical.

Likewise, as the state unemployment rate continues to rise, lottery funds devoted to economic development, and more specifically to the Oregon Economic and Community Development Department, will play an important role in funding Oregon programs. NICOLE STORMBERG

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