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Blagojevich proposes selling state lottery to fund education

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By AP/KWMU

Chicago, Ill. – Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich says he wants to pump billions of dollars into the state's schools by selling or leasing the state lottery.

The governor announced the plan Tuesday, saying it is historic, it's ambitious and it will fundamentally change the way we fund schools.

Blagojevich says the proposal would raise $10 billion with $6 billion going to education over the next four budget years.

The proposal includes $1.5 billion for school construction and money for performance pay for teachers, updated textbooks and pre-school programs.

But the plan is drawing big bucks for education and big questions about
how and whether it will really work.

State officials and experts say Illinois would be the first state to turn its lottery over to the private sector. Other states run some of their operations privately.

Deputy Governor Bradley Tusk says there should be no problem finding private interest and any potential operators will be chosen through competitive bidding.

Critics say the state shouldn't trade off future revenues for immediate gain and question whether fewer people might play the lottery if it's in private hands. "I tell you what worries me is we're going to spend it now and what are we going to do in three or four years when we don't have that kind of money," asked former Gov. Jim Edgar.

"There's going to be a little bit of money, but we're spending $1 billion more and we don't have the revenue stream. That's what he's been doing constantly for the past three years.

"Now, he inherited a mess, but unfortunately he's made it worse. And this, I think, could just compound the problem."

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