Perhaps no operation of state government has been sized up for reform more in recent years than the California Lottery.
Lease it... sell it... remove the existing restrictions... all have been discussed in hopes of getting higher profits out of a lottery that's more than two decades old and, in the eyes of many, not making as much money as it should.
In two weeks, voters will be asked to approve a relatively mild tweak to the California Lottery, but one worth major bucks to the state budget. This morning on The California Report, we examined the proposal at the heart of Proposition 1C.
BUDGET DAY PLUS 16 -- Today's confab between legislative leaders and Governor Schwarzenegger certainly didn't resolve the budget impasse, but it did feature some serious talk on a familiar subject: the California Lottery.
The roughly two hour meeting of the "Big Five" came as both houses of the Legislature sit in recess with rank-and-file members on what many critics have called an undeserved vacation. And while leaders exiting the meeting indicated there was a lot of broad discussion on issues, all confirmed that the governor's team brought in analysts to discuss ways to squeeze money out of the lottery.
You'll remember that Schwarzenegger placed a plan on the table several months ago to balance the budget, in part, through the sale $15 billion in bonds repaid with future lottery revenues. The specific pitch never gained much traction at the state Capitol, with Democrats saying it was unrealistic to expect the money to show up in time to help this year's dilemma... and Republicans decrying the lottery proposal's backup plan -- a sales tax increase.
A phalanx of financial advisers, along with the governor's economic guru, David Crane, were seen exiting the meeting just after noontime. And yet Democrats still said the issue was a possible source of cash for the future... but not now.
"I think it's pretty conclusive that it's a not a budget solution for this year," said Senate President pro Tem Don Perata.
Of course, the voters haven't seemed hot on the idea, either.
Republicans came out of the meeting saying they remain focused on some kind of budget reform proposal, still a tough sell to Democrats.
And as for what happens next... don't expect full legislative action soon. Almost two weeks ago, Democratic leaders vowed to work towards a full budget vote in both chambers by next week. Will that still happen?
"I don't believe so," said Assembly Speaker Karen Bass.