June 15, 2010 - Bend Bulletin - Get ready for parks vs schools

August 30, 2010
June 15, 2010 - Bend Bulletin - Get ready for parks vs schools

Get ready for parks vs. schools

Published: June 15. 2010 4:00AM PST

But they loom, too, for the state’s citizen lawmakers, who may be asked in November to choose between the environment and education. Talk about a statewide identity crisis.

One group doesn’t want to wait that long. Oregonians for Water, Parks and Wildlife is trying to collect enough valid signatures — about 110,000 — to place a constitutional amendment on November’s ballot that would, among other things, make that 15 percent lottery set-aside permanent. The Nature Conservancy has donated about $900,000 to the cause so far, according to Willamette Week.

Every dollar that Measure 66 steers to parks and watersheds comes from somewhere else. Lottery money currently has three destinations.

Because much of the lottery fund isn’t locked up, lawmakers are able to steer money to lottery beneficiaries with the greatest need. That’s why public education, which has a firm claim on only 18 percent of lottery funds, received 64 percent of the pie last biennium, says Loftin. It doesn’t take an advanced math degree to figure out where most of the liberated lottery money will go if the parks and salmon set-aside expires in 2015.

The current initiative’s backers couldn’t have picked a more difficult time to plead their case. The state doesn’t have enough money to pay for the services it provides. Lawmakers have exhausted the public’s tolerance for significant tax and fee hikes. And by asking voters to make the constitution’s parks and salmon provision permanent, Oregonians for Water Parks and Wildlife have unwittingly publicized a potential future source of education funding.

Published Daily in Bend Oregon by Western Communications, Inc. © 2010

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An aerial view of a body of water.