Bill proposes Nixon play the lottery to fix budget

Monday, February 22, 2010 | 8:24 p.m. CST

JEFFERSON CITY — Gov. Jay Nixon would be forced to gamble for funds to bolster the state's declining budget under legislation proposed by a few Republican lawmakers.

The bill, proposed by Rep. Mark Parkinson, R-St. Charles County, would deduct $2 from Nixon's paycheck twice a month to buy Powerball lottery tickets and place any potential winnings in a fund called "Governor Nixon's Scratch-off, Match-off Fund."

The fund would be dissolved and moved into the General Revenue Fund if the governor's potential winnings were to match or exceed $300 million — the exact amount in Nixon's budget recommendation for fiscal year 2011 that comes from an extension of federal stabilization funds that has not yet been approved by Congress.

Nixon's office has said that the funding would likely be included in federal jobs bills. However, the U.S. Senate passed the jobs bill on Monday, and it did not include these stabilization funds, State Budget Director Linda Luebbering said.

"The odds of that, the second stimulus funding package being passed by the Feds are probably the same odds as winning the lottery," Parkinson said.

The odds of winning the jackpot in Powerball — a multi-state lottery — are one in 195,249,054, according to the Missouri Lottery Fact Book. Jackpots are at least $20 million and the largest to-date was $365 million.

Nixon's office said the bill is silly.

"It's not worth commenting on," Nixon spokesman Scott Holste said.

Parkinson said the bill is a statement about Nixon's budget.

"We can't spend and spend and spend on a personal level based on a bonus that may or may not come," Parkinson said.

He also supported legislation by Rep. Allen Icet, R-Wildwood, that would require the federal government to balance its budget. Icet is a co-sponsor of Parkinson's bill, which will be heard by the House Tax Reform Committee this week or next.

Rep. Joe Smith, R-St. Charles, chairman of the Tax Committee, said he supports Parkinson's bill, which he sees as a potential boon to the state's budget crisis.

"I think it's kind of clever," he said. "If the governor were to win it would make it a lot easier for us."

May Scheve Reardon, director of the Missouri Lottery, said her department reviewed the legislation and would suggest two additional amendments: all legislators play Powerball and the governor also play Mega Millions, another multi-state lottery game the lottery introduced in January.

Smith said he didn't think it would be fair to ask legislators — who are paid just over $30,000 — to deduct lottery tickets from their salaries, but he said it wouldn't make a large dent in the governor's salary.

"He probably wouldn't even miss it," he said.

Nixon was paid $123,970.18 last year, according to the Missouri Accountability Portal.

Despite his bill, Parkinson said he doesn't play the lottery.

"I think it's a self-imposed tax on stupidity," he said.

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