Lottery winners are among the latest victims of one of America’s worst budget crises in Illinois.
The state has stopped paying out lottery prizes larger than $25,000 because the governor and the state legislature have not been able to work out a budget for more a year, Reuters reported.
“Due to the ongoing budget situation in Springfield, some lottery winner payments have been delayed,” Stephen Rossi, the Illinois Lottery’s communications director, said in a statement to the press. “All winners will be paid in full as soon as the lottery and the Illinois comptroller have the legislative authority to do so.”
That means instead of cash or a check, many lottery winners in Illinois are getting an IOU, CNBC reported. The state is not issuing large payouts because it is illegal for the state comptroller’s office to cut checks of more than $25,000 without a budget in place. Lotteries apparently are “non-priority” items.
“The lottery is a state agency like many others, and we’re obviously affected by the budget situation,” Rossi told The Chicago Tribune. “Since the legal authority is not there for the comptroller to disburse payments, those payments are delayed.”
Local lottery claim centers around the state handle payments of $25,000 or less.
Democrats in the state legislature are trying to use the budget to force Republican Governor Bruce Rauner to sign off on a tax increase. Rauner is wanting deep budget cuts.
One person who is not amused by the situation is lottery winner Susan Rick. She and her boyfriend are still waiting for $250,000 they won.
“For the first time, we were finally gonna get a break,” Rick told the Tribune. “And now the Illinois Lottery has kind of messed everything up.”
The situation in Illinois is made more confusing by the fact that some lottery winners are getting paid and some are not. Winners of the Powerball and Mega Millions lotteries — which are administered by multistate consortiums — will get paid.
“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,” Rick said. “Our budget wouldn’t be a factor. You can’t say (to the state), ‘Can you wait until I get my budget under control?’ ”
Rick said a lottery official told her that the budget could be solved soon, but she doesn’t believe it.
“And he tries to tell me it could be any day now,” she said. “So I went online, and every article I read says they’re not even close (to passing a budget). So don’t give me that line. It could be months. You’re collecting interest on our money that we should be collecting.”
Democratic state Rep. Rep. Jack Franks is a vocal critic of the way the lottery is handled, the Tribune reported.
“Our government is committing a fraud on the taxpayers, because we’re holding ourselves out as selling a good, and we’re not — we’re not selling anything,” Franks said. “The lottery is a contract: I pay my money, and if I win, you’re obligated to pay me and you have to pay me timely. It doesn’t say if you have money or when you have money.”
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