Illinois lottery winners to receive IOUs as lawmakers refuse reform

Illinois lottery winners to receive IOUs as lawmakers refuse reform

A Springfield budget stalemate comes with embarrassing consequences for Illinois government.

A lottery ticket is a cheap gamble on a big payoff for some, but for others it’s a shot at a better life: a house, a dream vacation, retirement.

But because Illinois hasn’t passed a budget, state lottery winners with prizes worth more than $25,000 will get an IOU instead of a payout.

The state has been without a budget since July 1, though many Illinoisans have claimed winning lottery tickets since then. Illinois Comptroller Leslie Munger doesn’t have the authority to cut checks to the Illinois Lottery without a budget on the books.

“The lottery is a state agency like many others, and we’re obviously affected by the budget situation,” Illinois Lottery spokesman Steve Rossi said to the Chicago Tribune. “Since the legal authority is not there for the comptroller to disburse payments, those payments are delayed.”

Prizes of less than $25,000 can still be cashed in at lottery claim centers, according to the Tribune. Winners of prizes worth $600 or less can redeem their tickets at retail outlets.

But those who thought a winning ticket was about to change their life are still left hanging.

“You know what’s funny? If we owed the state money, they’d come take it and they don’t care whether we have a roof over our head,” said $250,000 prize winner Susan Rick to the Chicago Tribune. “Our budget wouldn’t be a factor. You can’t say (to the state), ‘Can you wait until I get my budget under control?'”

Lottery payments aren’t the only thing Illinois isn’t making good on, as the budget stalemate continues into its second month past the July 1 deadline.

The Illinois General Assembly did pass a state budget in May, but it was unbalanced to the tune of $4 billion and the governor vetoed it. Gov. Bruce Rauner has signed legislation that funds Illinois schools, and many other state spending items have been mandated by consent decrees or pushed piecemeal through the courts.

But Illinoisans across the state continue to suffer as many in the General Assembly refuse to do the right thing and pass a balanced budget the state can afford, instead of continuing to deficit spend. With more than $100 billion in pension debt and more than $3 billion in unpaid bills, more of the same won’t work. It’s time to stop the bleeding. Until then, people depending on a life-changing lottery ticket, the poor and disabled, and taxpayers across the state will lose out.

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