We’ll always get behind transparency, especially as it relates to money that flows through any governmental entity.
There should be no barrier to the public knowing how tax dollars are spent. There should also be no secrecy as to how agencies hand out the money they’re tasked to.
State Rep. Bud Cook says he has some concerns about the latter.
The West Pike Run Township Republican said he’s concerned about the way Local Share Account (LSA) money, brought into Washington and Fayette counties through gaming revenue, is being distributed.
Cook said his concerns are specific to Washington County, which makes up the bulk of the area he represents. He’s worried the committee that distributes the funding isn’t open enough about the process, nor about potential conflicts of interest between those who decide where the money goes and those who receive it.
He’s launched a campaign to educate municipalities about his concerns, and is looking for co-sponsorship of legislation to send LSA funding to county school districts to be used to lessen the strain of property taxes.
In Washington, the potential loss to community and economic development projects is steep. LSA funding has brought $89.7 million from The Meadows Racetrack & Casino to 391 projects since 2008.
Fayette has also seen benefit of the funding, albeit on a smaller scale. Nemacolin Woodlands’ Lady Luck Casino has provided nearly $3.1 million to 71 projects since 2015.
The requests for proposals seeking LSA money are well-publicized. There are rules about who can apply and for what the money can be used.
Much like requests for grants, those who are seeking the money in both counties submit a proposal explaining what they’re hoping to fund. Those proposals go to a committee, which in turn recommends projects to commissioners in each county. The commissioners take into account the recommendations and vote on which projects will receive funding.
The ultimate funding approval, however, comes from the state Department of Community and Economic Development, where officials determine if the projects meet the criteria for those that are eligible to benefit from the gaming revenue.
The process for all of this is public. The final approval rests in the hands of the state.
With several layers of oversight, it’s hard to see how anyone could question whether local officials are stacking the deck or trying to get funding for projects that don’t qualify for LSA money.
We don’t fault Cook for asking questions — in fact, that’s what a good elected official should do. We elect them to act as watchdogs for our money. We expect them to advocate for those they were elected to represent.
If there were LSA applicants throughout the counties who receive gaming revenue crying foul, we’d understand his push to change it.
This effort, however, seems like change for the sake of change and we’re hard pressed to support that.