Illinois House Swats Away Lottery Lease Plan

July 9, 2007 ( - Lawmakers in the Illinois House have rebuffed a proposal by Governor Rod Blagojevich to lease the state's lottery to generate enough cash to pay down its pension debt.

A news report in the Harrisburg (Illinois) Daily Register said the House rejected Blagojevich’s lottery privatization plan by a 78-6 vote. Under the plan, the state would lease the lottery to a private vendor for at least $10 billion and use the money to retire part of the $42 billion pension fund debt.

According to the news report, the vote came hours after Blagojevich charged House Speaker Michael Madigan with aligning himself with “conservative, right-wing Republicans” to thwart the governor’s efforts at expanding health care and education funding.

“Our challenge is to try to convince House Democrats, Mr. Madigan, to stop being a Republican, to stop forming partnerships with conservative right-wing Republicans to pass budgets that take health care away from children, that take services away from senior citizens, that cut education,” Blagojevich said, according to the newspaper. “We need to get Mr. Madigan to be a Democrat again and stop being a George Bush Republican,” Blagojevich said.


“It demonstrates his immaturity,” Madigan spokesman Steve Brown responded, the newspaper said. “He rolls out a string of insults and offers no solutions about the budget impasse.”

Without the deal, said Representative Kurt Granberg, the amount the state needs to pay into its pension plans will soar, leaving no money for education and other services. “We need to do something dramatic and drastic,” Granberg said.


According to the report, additional lawmaker complaints about the lottery plan include that it will leave a $630 million hole in the school aid budget and the state would get $10 billion from an asset that’s worth far more.

The Senate, meanwhile, approved a resolution drafted by the Blagojevich administration saying the pension funding issue is serious and should be addressed this year. It was adopted on a voice vote.