Governor Culver’s chief of staff issued a statement this morning, seeking to end speculation about the state leasing the Iowa Lottery to private interests.
The governor first mentioned the idea in December, suggesting hard budget times warranted a review of state assets like the lottery which might be sold to generate cash. But during an interview with Radio Iowa on Saturday morning, Charlie Krogmeier — Culver’s chief of staff — indicated leasing the lottery will not be part of the state budget plan the governor presents to lawmakers in a few days.
"It seems like this thing is getting a little more hype than is warranted and every day there’s another either story or somebody wanting to join in on what they’re calling, ‘the governor’s plan to sell the lottery,’" Krogmeier said. "There is no governor’s plan to sell the lottery. There never has been."
Krogmeier accuses Republicans like Senate Minority Leader Paul McKinley of engaging in a "silly political game" by suggesting there’s been a "backroom deal" between Culver and some casino interests who also are Culver campaign contributors. "The governor met with a group of Iowans who had a proposal and has said we should consider that. There’s no active discussion of doing anything about it. It will not be in any form in his budget that’s presented this week," Krogmeier said. "There’s no discussion of doing anything about that going on, so we thought it was time to end the discussion of this."
The governors of other states, notably California, have raised the idea of selling or leasing their state lotteries, but the legal issues involved have proven difficult if not impossible to navigate. Krogmeier’s weekend statements suggest the issue’s being dropped in Iowa, too. "The governor’s not advocating it either privately, in discussions with (legislative) leaders or in any other way that I’m aware of," Culver’s chief of staff said during his interview with Radio Iowa, "and I think I’d be aware of it."
The discussion started with Governor Culver’s call for a review of state assets which might be sold to help plug the state budget shortfall. "There will be an item in the state budget, much more modest than what was talked about with the lottery, but an item considering the sale of assets," Krogmeier said. "At some of the state institutions there is probably excess land that could be sold and those sorts of things and we’re asking the legislature to take a real serious look at that."
According to Krogmeier, one of the parcels of land Culver will recommend selling is one of three state prison farms near Fort Madison. One of the three farms will be the site of the state’s new maximum security prison, and the governor will suggest keeping just one of the other two farms.