Scott Reeder: Even Lottery winners stiffed by Legislature

SHARE Scott Reeder: Even Lottery winners stiffed by Legislature

Susan Rick, whose boyfriend Daniel Chasteen won $250,000 off a $5 scratch-off ticket July 20, talks about the class-action lawsuit against the Illinois Lottery for its failure to pay prizes more than $25,000 during the state’s budget impasse. Chasteen’s attorney, Thomas Zimmerman, looks on during the press conference at his Loop office, Sept. 9, 2015. | Ashlee Rezin/for Sun-Times Media

It seems everyone is mad at the state of Illinois.

And one of the hottest is Danny Chasteen, who in July won $250,000 in the Illinois Lottery but, so far, has had to settle for an IOU.

The factory foreman from Oglesby is none to happy.

“When you buy a winning lottery ticket, you ought to get paid,” Chasteen told me. “I paid $5 for that ticket and had to look at it four times before I convinced myself that I had just won $250,000. And then I got a call from the lottery department and was told they can’t pay me until the state passes a budget.”


So Chassteen has made a federal case out of it. He is suing the state.

A judge will decide whether the state should start forking over the dough.

An unfortunate part of the budget impasse our state now faces is that it’s judges – not lawmakers – who are deciding how tax dollars are being spent.

That’s not the way things are supposed to work.

In June, Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed most of the budget passed by the state legislature because it was $4 billion out of balance.

Since then, we have had a constant tug-of-war between the state’s chief executive and the legislative leaders.

And we have been without a budget.

A judge has stepped in and said state employees must get paid.

And judges are enforcing a dozen other agreements regarding funding for state programs. And more lawsuits are being filed asking judges to order more spending.

In fact, state Comptroller Leslie Munger said last week between the court orders, numerous judicial agreements and some statutory requirements, the state is fulfilling 90 percent of its financial obligations.

And we are also going broke one court order at a time.

The Illinois General Assembly is supposed to be a deliberative body that sets priorities and develops policy.

Instead we have seen lots of posturing but not much action.

The Legislature is allowing other branches of government to do the heavy lifting.

When the General Assembly passed a budget billions of dollars out of whack, they whined that the governor vetoed it rather than try to make cuts on his own.

And increasingly lawmakers have sat back and watched the judicial branch do their job for them by authorizing spending.

And what have legislators been doing?

Looking busy, but accomplishing little.

Look no further than the measure passed by the state Senate last week. It would increase state spending on welfare by $2 billion.

I don’t claim to be a math wizard, but anyone who has ever balanced a checkbook knows you can’t withdraw more than you have deposited.

In the case of the Illinois Senate, their latest measure along with their original budget would arguably put the state $6 billion into overdraft territory.

It’s the politics of gridlock.

Instead of making tough choices on a balanced budget, legislators are performing a charade and calling it governing.

We deserve a General Assembly that will work with the governor to make tough choices. Instead we have a legislative majority that wants others to make the tough calls.

We deserve better and they know better.

Scott Reeder is a columnist with Illinois News Network, a project of the Illinois Policy Institute.


Follow Scott Reeder on Twitter at: @scottreeder


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