Missouri voters have rejected establishing a new lotto game that would have helped fund veterans programs. The proposal, a ballot initiative in Tuesday’s primary election, failed with 55 percent of ballots cast against the idea.
Rep. Sheila Solon, who sponsored the legislation creating the proposed amendment, called the defeat "disappointing" and attributed the loss to the prevailing notion from opponents that the lottery was an unpredictable funding source. "The defeat of the lottery ticket isn't a reflection of a lack of support of Missourians for veterans," she said Wednesday morning.
Missouri Lottery’s proceeds currently all go toward education funding. The measure proposed creating a new scratch-off ticket especially for veterans. All earnings from it would have gone into the Veterans Commission Capital Improvement Trust Fund. Solon said the new scratch-off could help fund an additional facility for retired veterans, provide for better up-keep at their cemeteries and direct more funding toward programs that connect veterans with social services.
In 2012 the state stopped funding veterans' services through its general fund and instead diverted a portion of a $2 entrance fee charged at the state's casinos into the trust fund. (Veterans homes are maintained from fees paid by veterans.) But casino business has been on the decline and lawmakers' attempt to add $8 million in this year's budget for veterans was one of 124 line item vetoes by the governor.
Solon said it's up to lawmakers during next month's special session to address funding "the right" way. "The voters felt that veterans shouln’t be relying on gambling -- I agree with that," she said, adding that she wouldn't make another attempt at the amendment. "We should be funding this through the legislature."
Missouri has the nation’s 15th-largest population of veterans and has seven facilities for them -- only California and Texas have more, according to the National Association of State Veterans Homes. Still, more veterans are waiting for a spot in a home than actually living in one. Nearly 1,800 are on the wait list while just 1,350 Missourians are living in a veterans home.
Currently, just Illinois, Iowa, Kansas and Texas direct some lottery proceeds into a veterans’ fund.