This is probably the most important story written so far about the political impact of the governor’s lottery/education plan. After hinting about big problems with downstate Democrats last week, I had hoped to write a story just like this in a day or two, but the Post-Dispatch beat me to it.
Downstate Democrats, fearful that Chicago schools will get most of the jackpot in a proposed $10 billion privatization of the state lottery, are quietly organizing a possible rebellion against their party’s own governor over the controversial plan.
“When you’re talking about selling the lottery for $10 billion, that can do a lot for a lot of different schools,” said state Rep. Brandon Phelps, D-Norris City. “If all the money is going to Chicago, there’s no way I’m going to support this.”
Phelps and other downstate Democrats said they are concerned that the proposal by Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich will end a lottery revenue stream that aids schools statewide, trading it in for a Chicago-centric school revitalization plan.
Details of the plan are still incomplete, and the administration denies it will be geared toward Chicago. But critics point to an appearance that the plan is being created primarily to placate a Chicago-based state senator who been threatening to challenge Blagojevich’s re-election bid in November.
“All of our schools in the state should be treated equally,” said state Rep. Thomas Holbrook, D-Belleville. “That’s what I would not request, but demand of any program that would make such a fundamental change to the lottery system.”
One of the downstate legislators, Rep. Kurt Granberg, D-Carlyle, began calling southern Illinois colleagues within the party last week to discuss strategy, and said he intends to follow up with letters to Democratic lawmakers throughout the region this week. Granberg said he hopes downstate Democrats will, as a group, threaten to oppose the measure unless they get assurances that “a substantial portion” of the program benefits downstate schools.
Read the whole thing.
It’s amazing to me that the AP hasn’t picked up on this piece yet.