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Politics & Government

WTA Questions Use Of State Revenue To Fund Lottery

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The tax watchdog group, Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance, questions the use of state tax revenues to subsidize the state lottery. They say it possibly violates the state Constitution.

WTA President Todd Berry says the lottery was sold to the public as a self-sustaining agency.

Berry says the new state budget does something unique..

"....the wrinkle in this budget is the state budget is the legislature and the Govenor have found a way to pick up state sales and income taxes and run them through the lottery fund and they come out the other side as property tax credits...."

In an election year, the tax money will pay some lottery costs, specifically compensation to retailers for selling tickets. This beefs up the amount available for lottery tax credits to homeowners. Berry says there is evidence to say that it isn't Constitutional to do this. He says the total is in the neighborhood of $48 million.

Berry says in the late 1990's, then -Attorney General and later Governor Jim Doyle and a prominent tax attorney said funneling money was not Constitutional...

"...and Gov. Thompson vetoed it, saying what I said, is these two funds are not meant to be co-mingled and it's probably not Constitutional the way they're running the money through the Lottery anyway..."

Berry says unlike other transfers between separate funds when state leaders moved money to stabilize shaky budgets, the lottery does not appear to need such support. Though lottery sales peaked in the mid-1990s, they have remained relatively constant since and have risen modestly in recent years.

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