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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Don't sell the Illinois lottery

It looks like a plan to sell the Illinois lottery is finally making its way through the system. Except, they're calling it a lease (SJ-R: House approves Lottery leasing plan):

A plan to lease the Illinois Lottery to help pay for a major capital construction program has cleared the Illinois House.
The House voted 75-38 for the plan crafted by House Democrats. It first cleared a House committee today before passing the House.

Setting aside why we even have a lottery, or whether people should be spending their hard earned dollars on a chance to win, this is a bad idea. Question: Why would the state want to get rid of what is probably the single biggest source of revenue for the state, after taxes?

Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, D-Chicago, said leasing the Lottery is the only option left if lawmakers want to raise money for a public works construction program. Other ideas, like raising taxes and fees or expanding casino gambling, have too much opposition.

In my view, it's not that we oppose raising taxes so much. It's that we oppose the way you people handle the money. Case in point, the "leasing" of the lottery for a one-time cash influx. Let me rephrase that: The reasons we oppose raising taxes and fees and expanding casino gambling are the same reasons we oppose "leasing" the lottery. It's because you people are not good stewards of the public trust and taxes.

The state thinks it can find a private vendor to pay $10 billion for the privilege of operating the Lottery for the next 50 to 60 years. Of that, $7 billion will pay for projects and $3 billion will be set aside to ensure schools continue to get $600 million a year from the lottery.

Fifty to 60 years is a long time to sit there and watch someone else have their way with a state asset. Also, after that $7 billion pays for the projects (presumably infrastructure repairs), the money is gone. We need to keep our state in constant good working condition, as has not been done. Instead of a one-time splurge, why don't we set up a separate steady flow of income that will pay for those things.

As for public schools, that $600 million figure sounds very limiting. Perhaps someone should re-assess how public schools are funded in this state before we commit to this lease.

Edit to add:

Second update:: Capitol Fax Blog covers the politics of this and more.

Posted by Marie at September 10, 2008 8:00 PM


Hey, Arnold's trying a variation of this theme in California.

Why are your numbers so ... small ... in Illinois (our budget deficit this year is the amazing sum of $15 billion. That's just one year's worth).

Excellent point on distrusting our public stewards.

Posted by: Dan at September 10, 2008 10:03 PM

Yeah, I was listening to California's situation on the radio today, including soundbites by Arnold. (Do all these people go to the same politician school?) Anyway, your situation is much worse than ours. And, it's getting worse everywhere.

Posted by: Marie at September 10, 2008 10:43 PM

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