TC PALM: Florida Lottery is a Lesson for Amendment 1

Months after voters approved the Florida Lottery in 1986, Treasure Coast educators pleaded with lawmakers to use money generated from the program as intended: To enhance education.

“It is imperative that all funds … be used to supplement — not supplant — existing education funding programs,” then-St. Lucie County Schools Superintendent George Hill told local legislators in 1987.

Hill’s concerns have materialized, critics said, with lottery proceeds simply replacing funding the state provided for K-12 education in the past.

Environmentalists are evoking the lottery as a cautionary tale as they warn the Legislature to spend money made available through Amendment 1 — approved last year for conservation land acquisition, management and restoration — as voters intended.

Conservation groups already are rattled by preliminary proposals from the Senate and House released last week that don’t increase the budget for the Florida Forever land-buying program. Florida’s Water and Land Legacy, an environmental and civic groups coalition, wrote Amendment 1 because the state slashed the program’s funding.

Instead, the plans focus more on managing existing state-owned land and other water projects. Although that is part of the amendment’s intent, environmentalists had hoped the Legislature also would buy more land before it is developed, as Florida continues to grow.

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