Lottery winners, suburbs to get state money; who's next?
Illinois will start paying lottery winners, mayors and others who have seen their state money delayed for months, leaving colleges, their students and some human services providers to continue waiting for funding as the state continues without a full budget.
Gov. Bruce Rauner signed legislation Monday to pay out lottery winnings, gasoline and gambling taxes owed to municipalities, and some money for the Illinois Math and Science Academy in Aurora, which had warned its spring semester could be in jeopardy without funds. The Illinois Senate approved the measure earlier in the day.
Coupled with funds to help pay utility bills for low-income Illinoisans and some money for domestic violence shelters, the latest spending plan gets a small amount of money moving compared to the state's overall budget -- which Rauner and lawmakers have fought over all year.
The upcoming spring semester might be the next state budget pressure point. Colleges and universities and colleges have raised concerns about floating the state's largest need-based scholarship program during the budget impasse.
Illinois has been operating without a full budget since July 1.
State Sen. Tom Cullerton, a Villa Park Democrat, carried the legislation to fund lottery winners and local towns, saying it made sense to start paying out money the state just holds on their behalf.
A spokesman for Comptroller Leslie Munger of Lincolnshire says the office can start paying the bills once it starts getting vouchers.
State Sen. Matt Murphy, a Palatine Republican, said the legislation shows Rauner is willing to work with Democrats.
"Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and to our mayors, good spending," Murphy said.
Rauner and top lawmakers are set to meet in Chicago Tuesday, but the House and Senate aren't scheduled to return to the Capitol in Springfield until next year.
Kim Zoeller, executive director of the DuPage County-based Ray Graham Association, says Tuesday's action raises questions about officials' priorities when lottery winners get paid before some Illinois mental health care providers. She said, the ongoing budget impasse hits human services organizations like hers that have dealt with the state's financial problems for years.
"It's insult to injury," she said. "It's really disheartening."