State Senators Ron Rice and Jim Whelan strongly believe after-school programs are vital and they’re working to together to come up with a new way to pay for them. The lawmakers have introduced legislation to create a dedicated funding mechanism for after-school programs for at-risk kids from a 0.5% surcharge on any New Jersey Lottery winnings of $600 or more.

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Rice says, “Through this legislation, we’re dedicating a small portion of lottery winnings to fund non-profit after school programs, so that these programs are somewhat insulated from the political wrangling that goes into the budget and can focus on their mission of serving at-risk children.”

“Programs like NJ After 3 and other after school programs make such an important difference in our communities,” says Whelan. “They give our kids a place to be kids, free from the pressures of gangs or the temptations of illegal drugs, and they give working parents the peace of mind in knowing that their children are in a safe and nurturing environment. By guaranteeing funding for these programs through the State lottery, we can preserve these programs moving forward without worrying year in and year out about the larger State budget picture.”

The bill would impose a 0.5 percent surcharge, in addition to any other taxes authorized by law, on New Jersey Lottery winnings greater than or equal to $600. Revenue generated from this surcharge would be deposited into the “After School Program Fund,” established within the Department of Education and administered by the Commissioner of Education. These revenues would go to support a grant program, so that not-for-profit entities which run after school programs in school districts in which at least 40 percent of the students are considered at-risk.

Rice and Whelan says when the state lottery program was instituted more than 40 years ago, one of the primary reasons was to provide more funding for education in New Jersey. Since its inception, the lottery has provided funds to New Jersey’s community colleges, the School Nutrition Program and the New Jersey School for the Deaf. The lawmakers argue that tapping lottery prizes to pay for after-school programs in at-risk areas is consistent with the original intent of the lottery program.

“We’ve seen that valuable after-school programs for at-risk kids – programs like NJ After 3 – are not off-limits when it comes to the volatility of the State budgeting process under this Governor,” explains Rice. “Last year, Governor (Chris) Christie eliminated funding for NJ After 3, and thankfully, we convinced him to restore the funding to maintain this program which keeps kids off the streets and gives them a safe place to go after school.