— -- Danny Chasteen thought he hit the jackpot when he won $250,000 in the Illinois lottery this summer. But a delay in the state's budget is also delaying his payoff and dampening his celebratory mood.
"Wait a minute. I won this fair and square," Chasteen, 56, of LaSalle County, said. "I bought a ticket and scratched it off. I don’t get it."
That's because until the budget is approved, the state comptroller can't pay lottery winners with prize money higher than $25,000, state lottery officials said.
"If it was me owing the state money, but I don’t have the budget together, they would take me to court and get my money," Chasteen said.
Illinois lawmakers have failed to meet their budget deadline of July 1, as Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner has battled the Democrat-run legislature. Meanwhile, the Illinois State Museum, subsidized child care and other social services are on the chopping block.
When Chasteen, a manufacturing foreman, learned he won the state lottery's Cool Cash scratch-off game on July 20, he said he was told he would receive the winnings in four to six weeks. But last week, he received a call from lottery officials saying otherwise.
"They said, 'We cannot pay you out because the state don’t have a budget,'" said Chasteen, who was hoping to pay off his bills with his lottery winnings.
Last Friday, he took out a $3,000 loan to help pay off his bills and those of his girlfriend. Chasteen said he hasn't spent more money than he usually does since learning he won the lottery. But he said he wouldn't have taken out the loan if he had received the lottery prize money, as first reported by ABC station WLS in Chicago.
Lottery officials say the prize money exists, but they legally can't dole it out.
“Due to the ongoing budget situation in Springfield, some lottery winner payments have been delayed," a statement from the state lottery read. "All winners will be paid in full as soon as the Lottery and the Illinois Comptroller have the legislative authority to do so."