Sometime this spring, the Colorado General Assembly will vote to reauthorize the Colorado Lottery Division for another 15 years beyond its scheduled 2024 sunset. That effort made progress Jan. 25 when the state Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources & Energy Committee unanimously voted Senate Bill 66 out of committee to be considered by the full Senate.
In early November, 2017, the Durango City Council unanimously voted to sign a resolution in support of reauthorization, and in December, all three La Plata County Commissioners signed a letter encouraging the same.
Although Cortez city councilors also support reauthorization, and despite the fact that since 1995, Montezuma County has received $11.6 million for county projects, the county’s three commissioners feel differently. They don’t like the way the money is allocated, and in December said the county is not interested in signing a support letter unless the funding allocation is changed.
The lottery was established by voters in a 1980 amendment to the state constitution; in 1992 voters authorized the current funding formula.
As of now, the Conservation Trust Fund and Colorado Parks and Wildlife are funded first, at 40 percent and 10 percent, respectively. Up to 50 percent of the remaining proceeds – an inflation-adjusted limit that today is approximately $65 million – go to Great Outdoors Colorado. Since 1994, 68 GOCO grants have provided $11.7 million for La Plata County projects.
Most years, GOCO’s monetary cap is exceeded and the remaining funds go to the Building Excellent Schools Today program, which has provided millions of dollars in funding for schools statewide.
Montezuma County commissioners don’t particularly like the funding of conservation easements, which can sometimes reduce the taxable value of property. Every easement agreement is different, though, and landowners can, for example, negotiate the ability to retain one or more building envelopes on a property and, with it, the value of the development potential.
On the flip side, one Cortez, Durango and La Plata County have embraced, outdoor recreation is an economic force, and the landscape is a big attraction to both visitors, businesses and individuals looking to relocate here. Conservation easements keep open space from turning into subdivisions and help agricultural families stay on their land. GOCO has helped pay for planning activities, trails, recreational facilities, park and playground improvements and school gardens throughout our region and the state.
As the Paths to Mesa Verde trail unfolds, organizers likely will apply for GOCO funds. In Durango, GOCO funds have supported Animas River Trail construction, the Riverview Sports Complex, Smith Softball complex, Jenkins Ranch Park, Santa Rita’s whitewater park, the acquisition of Dalla Mountain, Horse Gulch and Oxbow Park and Preserve.
All that happened by allocating lottery revenue, which is a voluntary alternative to tax funding. Nobody is forced to buy a lottery ticket.
Legislators should pass SB 66 to reauthorize the Colorado Lottery. It can, no doubt, be made better, but it is already a very good program that has enhanced the quality of life in our region.