Education Funding Hits Jackpot
State lawmakers are reviewing a new gaming deal to expand gambling at Seminole casinos. The new deal would bring in $7 billion for education over the next 20 years. Schools have hit the jackpot but they won’t collect unless lawmakers, upset over what was left out of the deal, give the go ahead, as Whitney Ray demonstrates.
If the gaming deal is approved, the state will immediately receive $162 million.The money is sitting in the state treasury awaiting a finalized deal. Whether or not lawmakers will approve the new gaming deal is anybody’s guess. Governor Charlie Crist says if lawmakers don’t accept the deal the state could lose billions.
“My concern, if we don’t, that the Legislature doesn’t, is that the federal government will allow them to do it anyway, and we won’t get a dime of the money,” said Crist.
But if the Legislature does approve the deal, Florida schools will get $7 billion over the course of the agreement. It is a boost that Florida Education Association Spokesman Mark Pudlow believes is much needed.
“In this state we are well below the national average, and we’ve experienced cuts four times over the last couple of years, so we need to recapture money best we can,” Pudlow said.
Governor Crist and the Seminole Tribe are betting on the lift to education funding to gain legislative approval. Crist's confidence has been mirrored by a stream of revisions to legislative provisions of the deal.
When lawmakers wanted blackjack limited to four casinos, the governor agreed to seven. When lawmakers wanted the gaming deal to last just 15 years, the governor agreed to 20. And when they wanted the option to expand gambling elsewhere in Florida, Crist gave the tribe exclusivity.
The state Legislature is expected to hold a special session in October.
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