State Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, says he’ll sponsor a bill to tap lottery funds to pay for K-12 education.

“We have enough outhouses at soccer fields,” Sonnenberg said. “The state has spent billions of dollars on parks and recreation, and now it is time to make education funding a state priority. Let’s allow the voters to decide which is a higher priority — education or recreation.”

Under his proposed resolution, beginning in the third quarter of the 2020-21 fiscal year, any dollars intended for Great Outdoors Colorado and not legally committed to pay off bonds instead would be transferred to the state’s education fund.

Because it seeks a constitutional amendment, it would go on the 2020 ballot with the presidential election and a U.S. Senate race in Colorado. It would need 55 percent voter approval.

But GOCO Executive Director Chris Castilian said, “For the past 26 years, GOCO has partnered on more than 5,000 projects from parks and trails, to open space and wildlife protection. As our population continues to grow, GOCO sees ever-increasing demand for conservation and outdoor recreation funding. ...

“Our outdoors are core to Colorado’s identity, quality of life and economy, and GOCO’s investments ensure that Coloradans today and into the future will continue to enjoy and care for what makes our state great.”

The Colorado Education Association did not respond to a request for comment.

Republicans have tried for years to tap lottery proceeds. Now Sonnenberg is hoping about $66 million from the lottery would becomes part of an array of ways to fund education.

A request to pay down the state’s $77 million debt to K-12, supported by Gov. Jared Polis and former Gov. John Hickenlooper, isn’t much higher, Sonnenberg noted, but it’s huge for rural school districts.

Chief legislative reporter

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