Illinois Lottery Winners Won't Get Their Money Till After Budget Is Passed

The Illinois State Lottery's motto is "Anything's Possible."

Recent big winners, though, are getting a different message: "Anything's Possible As Soon As We Get a State Budget."

The Chicago Tribune reports today that winners of prizes of $25,000 and up have been told there's no money to pay them because the state has no budget to authorize prize payments. From the Tribune:

Under state law, the state comptroller must cut the checks for lottery winnings of more than $25,000. And lottery officials said that because lawmakers have yet to pass a budget, the comptroller's office does not have legal authority to release the funds.

Prizes of $25,000 or less will still be paid at lottery claim centers across the state, and people who win $600 or less can cash in their ticket at the place where they bought it.

But the bigger winners? Out of luck, for now.

The situation stems from the ongoing budget standoff between Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democrats who control the General Assembly. Rauner in May vetoed the budget sent to him by Democrats, saying it was $4 billion out of balance. Since then, Rauner has refused to negotiate on a budget until Democrats act on several economic and political reforms he says are necessary for the state's long-term financial health.

The state constitution says the comptroller can't issue any payments of any kind without a budget that authorizes those payments.

Read the rest at Reboot Illinois.

So lottery winners can be added to the list of people in whose best interest it is for the budget standoff to end as quickly as possible. But with so many conflicting personalities and policies in Springfield, a quick solution can seem less and less likely as the weeks drag on. Andy Shaw of the Better Government Association spotlights a column by Charlie Wheeler, a long-time Illinois public affairs reporter and journalism professor. Wheeler shared four steps to getting the state's budget talks back on track--check them out at Reboot Illinois.