A bill filed for the regular session seeks to fully fund the TOPS scholarship program with gambling franchise fees. Baton Rouge Representative Franklin Foil says his bill dedicates part of the funds from riverboat gambling to TOPS so the program isn’t underfunded in the future like it was this year.
“There’s enough revenue from the riverboat gambling program to fully fund TOPS, which right now is around $300 million a year,” Foil said.
Foil says currently over 75 percent of riverboat gaming funds go to the state general fund. He says less than 25 percent of the funds are going to education. But he says the whole purpose of those funds is supposed to be funding education.
“We passed riverboat gambling and other forms of gambling in this state by telling the public this money would be used for educational purposes. So I’m trying to make sure we use those gambling proceeds for that purpose,” Foil said.
Foil says the governor’s proposed budget for next fiscal year only funds TOPS at 70 percent. But he believes there’s enough money in the budget now to fully fund the scholarship program, if lawmakers set their priorities right.
“It takes the discretion away from the legislature, and it will ensure that TOPS is fully funded because the money from the riverboat gaming would go straight to the TOPS funding off the top,” Foil said.