Comment: House Lottery Lease Bill as Good as the Governor’s Going to Get

The Illinois House passed, 78-35, a $10 billion state lottery lease bill this wek to jump start a statewide capital construction program to build and rebuild, schools, roads, bridges, and public transportation. It’s the right move.

The lease of the state lottery—as the source of revenue to fund construction projects—emerged as the least objectionable funding source after nearly six years of long, polarizing, and paralyzing debate. I voted for this bill. I dislike this bill. But I dislike the alternatives far worse. And our infrastructure needs to be upgraded.

Governor Rod Blagojevich

Governor Rod Blagojevich

This bill is better than the original proposal that Governor Rod Blagojevich presented. This plan creates more transparency and accountability. The Treasurer and Comptroller will help handle the lease process. A revamped, independent Gaming Board will monitor the lease. Lawyer and broker fees will be capped.

The legislation authorizes the Governor to proceed. It authorizes the Governor to seek and accept a $10 bid billion, but not a dime less. If no vendor bids at least $10 billion, there is no lease. No projects. There is no cheap give-away of a state asset.

School funding is protected. The legislation holds education funding harmless at $600 million. Schools will get next year what they got this year from the lottery. No loss.

Will the Governor agree to the proposal? Not sure. But he would be foolish to disagree. It is as good as he’s going to get. The Governor will get the money for his long sought-after capital construction program. And he will get new road, bridge, and school bragging rights. He will just need to share the decision-making, and, perhaps, some of the bragging.

Of course the Illinois Senate must still consider the plan before any bragging can begin. Will the Senate agree? Not sure there either. The Senate is focused on succession. But were I a betting man, I would say a gubernatorial “nod” would be sufficient to secure Senate approval.

We’ll see.

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