Prop 1C would change California's lottery

May 7, 2009 10:55:56 PM PDT
On May 19, California voters will decide a number of propositions, including Prop 1C, which would change the way the lottery works. Supporters say the changes would help the state budget right away, but critics are afraid it would make the situation worse in the long-run.

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The California state lottery was voted into existence in 1984. Now for the first time since then, voters are being asked to change the rules in order to raise a quick $5 billion.

"What we would get is $5 billion right now so that we don't have to cut education more, health programs more," state Sen. Loni Hancock said.

The cash would be raised by selling lottery-backed bonds, which some say is something of a gamble, but Prop 1C would change the system in hopes the changes will mean more money coming in and a better guarantee of paying off those bonds.

Prop 1C aims to raise more revenue by improving the odds of winning. The theory is, the more frequently people win, the more frequently they will play.

But opponents, including the California Nurses Association, fear California risks deeper debt if the projected revenue fails to materialize, and that all the propositions are simply delaying the inevitable tax increase.

"The only reason that they're there is because it's holding off what has to be done," CNA spokesperson Kay McVay said.

Prop 1C has broad support from education groups, who say schools would be guaranteed their baseline funding. But if lottery earnings fell short, healthcare and social services might get hurt.

Polls show weak support for Prop 1C.

Elizabeth Markoff plays the scratchers routinely.

"I'm kind of addicted," she said.

Thursday she won a $1 return on a $4 investment, but she is not willing to gamble on Prop 1C.

"I think if it's not guaranteed that we'll get the money back back, it may not be worth it," Markoff said.

Prop 1C's $5 billion has already been included in next year's budget, so if it fails, it will be back to the drawing board for legislators to find the money somewhere else.

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