The Illinois Lottery Was Not Passed to Help Education

Every once in a while I’ll hear someone say that the lottery was passed to finance education.

If I have time, I’ll correct that impression.

When I attended my second New Members Conference put on by the Legislative Research Council, veteran member Zeke Giorgi was a luncheon speaker.

There I learned Chicago Aldermen are allowed to carry concealed guns by sitting at the same table with then-Alderman Rickey Hendon when someone mentioned he was packing in the Holiday Inn East.  Hendon told us it was dangerous in Chicago.  (I don’t know if he carried it on the Senate floor, but there was one organization Democrat who did so in the House.)

Giorgi gave some helpful hints and then passed out the front page of the Chicago Sun-Times the day after the lottery passed.

It said that the lottery was passed to pay for the Regional Transportation Authority.

Now, Giorgi, the sponsor of the lottery, certainly promoted it as a way to fund education.

And most people think that is why it passed.

But, that’s just not correct.

Northwest Herald guest columnist Scott Reeder, who admits he heard adults carping about how money from the lottery was being “stolen” from education, is one who needs correcting.

The thesis of the Illinois Policy Institute’s Scott Reeder’s guest column is that any money government takes is interchangeable with other money. In other words, earmarking cannot be counted upon to mean anything. Good analysis, but he has a misconception that the lottery was passed to finance schools. It wasn’t. It was passed to finance the RTA and actually brought in the amount projected during the first year–about $67 million.

He has a good excuse for not knowing.

After all, he was a kid when the RTA and the lottery were linked in passage.


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