Sen. Luke Kenley, the Noblesville Republican who is chairman of the Senate Tax and Fiscal Policy Committee, said Daniels' budget director, Charles E. Schalliol, briefed key fiscal leaders several weeks ago on the plan to lease out the state lottery to a private firm in exchange for cash.
That money, Kenley said, would go toward scholarships, as well as courting high-caliber professors for the state's universities.
Kenley said the idea drew disapproval from lawmakers, including Republicans. He said he and other lawmakers tried to persuade Schalliol away from the idea because the lottery pays for a number of programs, including teacher pensions.
"I'm a Republican, and I do everything to support the governor, and I'm not very enthused about this," Kenley said. "I can't even imagine what the Democrats are going to say. I doubt that he could get legislative approval for this."
"The governor already has a big agenda," he added. "This isn't the time to be playing high-stakes poker with the legislature to see if they're going to agree with you, especially with a (bipartisan General Assembly) coming in here."
Rep. Jeff Espich (R-Uniondale), who is the ranking Republican on the House Ways & Means Committee is boasting that such a deal could net the state a one-time gain of $1 billion. He bases this on a claim by Illinois Governor Rod Blagoyevich (D) that he could fetch $10 billion for the Illinois Lottery. Let's forget for the moment that Blagoyevich's administration is already under federal investigation for a variety of crimes centered around "pay for play" for the right to invest the state's pension funds. It just might not be the best idea to gamble with our primary source of revenue for funding our own public pension systems.
One company which does seem quite anxious about the proposal is Scientific Games International, a company which outgoing Hoosier Lottery Executive Director awarded a 2-year, $13.86 million contract last year. Someone from the company has been burning up the Internet today checking out the reaction on area blogs to today's news reports about a possible privatization deal (as evidenced by incoming and outgoing hits to this site). A company newsletter, commenting on the Hoosier Lottery contract, quoted Schneider as saying, “Thanks to a fantastic partnership with Scientific Games, the Hoosier Lottery has increased scratch-off sales by $47.7 million last year and we’re looking forward to even greateri ncreases over the next two years.” She added, “Not only are we excited about continuing innovative ways to increase scratch sales, but we’re working very closely with Scientific Games to develop new approaches to increase online games.”
Schneider, incidentally, suffered a scratch to her face today when a melee broke out as she released balloons containing free lottery tickets. Someone didn't think this one out too well in advance.