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Lottery game to benefit vets dies
Grantham changes position on issue he supported last week
Posted: Tuesday, April 17, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 11:26 pm, Mon Apr 16, 2012.
DENVER — A funny thing happened on the way to the Senate Finance Committee.
Sen. Kevin Grantham, R-Canon City, reversed his course Monday and cast the deciding vote to kill a bill that would have asked voters to approve a new lottery game to benefit struggling veterans.
Last week, Grantham had expressed concerns about Senate Concurrent Resolution 2, but nonetheless voted for it in the Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee, where it passed on a 3-2 vote.
“I made it abundantly clear in that committee meeting that there were a lot of problems with the concept of what they were doing,” Grantham said. “The bottom line is between last week and this week none of those concerns were directly addressed or answered, so I simply voted my conscience.”
The resolution was before the committee again Monday for what most expected to be a procedural vote to route it next to the finance committee. Instead, it met an unexpected end on a 3-2 vote.
The bill would have asked voters to authorize the new game to fund a grant program to help struggling veterans in Colorado to cope with employment challenges and the physical and psychological aftereffects of war.
Grantham said he had concerns that a new lottery game would cut into the pool of lottery proceeds that pay for open spaces and other projects, such as BEST funding for construction of schools in rural areas.
“It’s a 50-50 chance. Either it will or it won’t affect that,” he said. “I gave it the benefit of the doubt the other day, trying to get the question reasonably answered. The fact remains I have been trying to get those same answers for a couple of months. Given every opportunity, even the additional week, I still didn’t have satisfactory answers.”
Doubts haunted Grantham as well about whether the game would raise enough money to provide veterans much help.
“We’re not sure whether this would really benefit them in the way that was claimed,” he said.
Grantham also worried about the bill’s mechanism for getting funds to veterans.
“If your goal is to get $2 million to hand over to the vets, you have to have $7 (million) to $10 million come out of the economy and into the lottery,” he said. “If we’re looking at really wanting to help the vets, let’s talk about real budget considerations, line-item changes to fund it there. I think we’re going backwards if we’re taking money out of the economy and putting it into the lottery and hoping for a gain on the background for vets without affecting other programs.”
Grantham found an unlikely ally at the other end of the political spectrum. Democratic Sen. Angela Giron of Pueblo said she doubts the proposal would have gained the necessary two-thirds majorities in both House and the Senate that it needed to reach the ballot.
She cited the same concerns as Grantham, plus another.
“It’s a federal issue. We’re stretched. We’re not even able to meet our own constitutional responsibilities that we’re committed to,” Giron said, pointing to the Denver District Court ruling last year that found the state’s school finance formula falls short of the state constitution’s promise.
Because a new game’s impact on lottery sales cannot be accurately predicted, fiscal analysis of the bill by nonpartisan state economists could not forecast with any certainty what the return would be on the state’s $2 million investment to launch the game.
“All it would have amounted to be was symbolic,” Giron said. “We owe our veterans a lot more than symbolism.”
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