Reactions to Gov. Rod Blagojevichs latest campaign scheme, a $10 billion education funding plan, have ranged from stiff opposition to skepticism, at best. After reviewing the proposal, I remain unconvinced that the plan to sell off the Illinois Lottery is the most effective and responsible way to revamp Illinois education system.
The plan, announced during a lengthy news conference in Chicago recently, is long on spending proposals, but short on financial details. Despite the lack of specifics, lawmakers know that the plan relies on selling the rights to the state Lotterys revenue streamwhich currently pours $670 million per year into educationfor a one-time, lump sum of $10 billion.
Although there has been no documentation that the Lottery would even attract a $10 billion purchase price, my primary concern rests in potential outcome of the proposal. The education funding plan seems to be yet another example of this governor using a short-term revenue stream to benefit himself at the expense of Illinois financial future.
Under the plan, the state would spend $4 billion over the next four years, during what the governor hopes will be his second term. However, as several newspaper editorial boards and lawmakers have already pointed out, after the fourth year, state funding for education will return to current levelsuntil 2025, when the remaining $6 billion the governor plans to invest from the sale of the Lottery runs out. Then what? How will the state sustain education spending after these proceeds are gone?
The reality is that two decades from now, the initial $4 billion for education will be spent, the $6 billion that was invested will be gone, and the state will no longer own the Lotteryleaving the states taxpayers with nothing. This is simply a Band-Aid solution to the problem of education fundingand if this plan is implemented, the situation will only get worse.
Obviously, education funding is an issue that needs to be tackled in this state. However, falsely promoting the sale of the states Lottery system as the solution to Illinois education funding problem isnt the answer. Any proposal to overhaul education funding in this state should reflect careful thought and consideration as to how the program will be implemented, and what the long-term consequences of such a plan may be.
Brad Burzynski is the Republican Illinois state senator representing the 35th Senate District, which consists of all of DeKalb and Boone counties, and portions of LaSalle, Ogle and Winnebago counties
From the June 7-13, 2006, issue