COLUMBIA, S.C. -It probably comes as a surprise to most South Carolinians who think state lottery money is for improving K-12 schools and providing college scholarships, but lottery money can be used on buildings or maintenance. A bill to prohibit that passed a House committee Tuesday afternoon and is now headed to the full House.
Rep. Brian White, R-Anderson, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee that passed the bill, is the sponsor. He says it was an oversight when the law was written not to spell out that lottery money can't go for capital projects.
He says technical colleges and at least one four-year university, Francis Marion University, have used lottery money on deferred maintenance or on building projects in the last few years. Francis Marion University spokesman Tucker Mitchell says the school has no comment.
But using lottery money on something like replacing an air conditioning system is legal, and colleges argue that it's also needed after lawmakers have cut their budgets over the last few years.
Rep. White says, "This is a good first step to the point of saying, look, no brick and mortar. Let's get the money in the classroom."
State colleges and universities spent more than $37 million of lottery money the last two years on academic facility building, repair, maintenance, and training, according to the state Budget and Control Board.
White says lawmakers next year need to look at the entire lottery law for other things that need to be changed, like the current law of not allowing technical college students to use their lottery scholarship money to buy textbooks.
"You may be able to have the tuition to your technical college, but then all of a sudden you have to buy the $300 text book. Well I don't have the 300 bucks," he says.