Still no solution to lottery scholarship troubles

Posted at: 02/10/2014 5:46 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4

There are just ten days left in this year's session of the state legislature - and there is still no solution in sight for the lottery scholarships for thousands of New Mexico college students.

Right now the Senate Education Committee is holding a half dozen lottery bills, trying to nail together some kind of compromise before sending anything on to the next committee. There are more bills in the House of Representatives, but nothing in either chamber appears to have the legs to make it to the finish line, which is next Thursday at noon.

The sad facts: income from lottery ticket sales is flat, while more students are eligible for the scholarships and tuition costs keep going up and up. There's no agreement on what to do - raise grade requirements, establish family income limits, cap the amount instead of just flat paying whatever the tuition is this semester.

Lawmakers, even those sponsoring lottery bills, say they expect the legislature to just apply another band-aid to an amputated leg and keep it going for another year.

"Every one of your viewers has an idea how to fix the lottery scholarships," said Sen. Bill Payne, an Albuquerque Republican. "Every legislator has their own idea and some are politically popular and some aren't, but we've never got a bill that gets to solvency."

"We can't kick the can down the road any more," said Sen. Jacob Candelaria, a Democrat from Albuquerque who wants action this session. "We need to be sure there's money in the budget as a fail-safe to guarantee every New Mexico kid that at least for this calendar year the award will not suffer or not reduce."

About 14,000 New Mexico college students are on lottry scholarships right now; more than 80,000 have had them since the program started back in 1996.