State Lottery Leadership Appointment Barely Passes Senate

As State Faces COVID-19 Pandemic, Lottery Still Owes Schools Millions of Dollars
Tuesday, August 11, 2020

SACRAMENTO – Yesterday, Senator Chang (R-Diamond Bar) raised concerns on the Senate Floor related to the state’s Lottery Director appointment.  After Senator Chang raised issues related to his handling of a recent audit, Alva Johnson’s appointment confirmation passed the Senate Floor by just 3 three votes. A recent audit pushed by Senator Chang showed the Lottery owes at least $36 million to schools.  The Lottery has yet to return those funds despite schools facing a serious shortfall in funds.

“Usually when a state agency gets called out by the auditor, they explain how they are going to fix the problem,” said Senator Chang. “Instead of recognizing what the auditor discovered, and paying back our schools, State Lottery leadership found excuses, kept the money, and then turned around and hired even more staff and in-house attorneys.”

According to the State Auditor, “The Lottery has not prioritized funding to education when setting its budgets.”  The audit confirmed that while lottery sales revenue has increased by 115% since the Legislature’s changes were adopted in 2010, payments to schools increased by only 66%. It also found that for at least the 2017-18 fiscal year, the Lottery shortchanged schools $36 million. This could be money for supplies, teachers, and technology in our public schools as they face the COVID pandemic.

Earlier this year, Senator Chang introduced legislation to require the Lottery to pay back those funds to schools but Senate leadership has refused to give that bill a hearing and an opportunity for a vote. 

“The big problem is that schools will continue to get shortchanged, year-over-year until the mess at the Lottery is cleaned up,” added Chang. “Right now we are letting the Lottery gamble with our children’s education and it has to stop. Every dollar wasted at the State Lottery, is a dollar that won’t go to schools.”

The State Lottery has been at the center of a string of controversies, including last year when it was uncovered that the Lottery gave over $200,000 in scratchers to audience members and staff of the Ellen show, without justifying why those dollars shouldn’t go to schools instead.