Unused Lottery Funds Available to Support More Affordable Access to College

Since FY 2011, lawmakers have appropriated an average of $60 million more every year for HOPE Scholarships and Grants than students receive.[1] Over time, the state treasury has amassed nearly $1.3 billion in lottery reserves built up from unspent surplus funds.[2] Georgia is required by law to have 50 percent of the prior year’s net lottery proceeds saved in case of a shortfall, or $572 million.[3] Lottery reserves exceed that benchmark by more than $700 million.

Georgia voters expect lottery revenue to support education, but many lottery dollars sit unused. Georgia has never had to use its shortfall reserves and has a healthy shortfall reserves requirement. In recent years, the General Assembly chose to use more lottery dollars for pre-K teacher raises. The state could also take advantage of unused lottery dollars to strengthen Georgia’s HOPE programs.

Important Numbers

Options for Using Lottery Reserves for Education

Spend down excess unrestricted reserves for education over time

Dedicate interest income from reserves to education instead of putting it back into the state treasury

Ideas for Enhanced Lottery Spending

Expand HOPE Career Grants for high-demand careers up to the associate degree level Fund need-based HOPE Scholarships to address the high cost of college for struggling students

[1] GBPI analysis of surplus to lottery for education reserves reported in Governor’s Budget Reports, FY 2014 – FY 2021.

[2] State Accounting Office. Georgia Revenues and Reserves Report, Fiscal Year Ended June 30, 2019. https://sao.georgia.gov/ statewide-reporting/georgia-revenues-and-reserves

[3] Georgia Code § 50-27-13.

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