Buono To Lottery Jackpot Winners: Pay Your Debts – Then Celebrate

TRENTON – Senator Barbara Buono today said she is drafting a bill to require big-time lottery jackpot winners to pay off their state debts before they cash in their tickets for a life of leisure.

“Lottery winners can still live out their dreams once they pay off their debts,” said Senator Buono, D-Metuchen. “My bill will help the lucky lottery winners start their new lives with a clean slate.”

A recent state audit of the Lottery found that “processed” payouts last year – those ranging from at least $600 up to multi-million-dollar-mega winners – included more than $900,000 that could have been used to pay off the state debts of lottery winners, Senator Buono said.

“My bill will empower the Lottery people to hold back on payouts to prizewinners until their state debts are squared away,” Senator Buono said. “It will spread the luck of the winners around with a little enforced justice.”

Senator Buono said the Lottery already deducts payments owed for child support and student loans from lottery winnings prior to making payouts. But she said the agency needs legislative authorization to dock winners for other debts.

The State audit report cited a Division of Taxation database called the Set-off of Individual Liability (SOIL) as showing there were more than $900,000 in debts owed by lottery winners last year for overdue bills on sales, property and income taxes as well as for fines, penalties and assessments such as unpaid fees owed to victims of violent crimes.

“My bill will authorize the State Lottery to match the prize winner’s file with the Division of Taxation’s SOIL database and withhold any amounts needed to recover what is owed,” Senator Buono said. “It just makes good sense to help taxpayers and to make the system work better and fairer.”

In an official response to the State audit report, Michellene Davis, Executive Director of the Division of State Lottery, concurred with the recommendation that will be expedited by Senator Buono’s legislation.

Senator Buono said she hoped to have her bill drafted in time to introduce on Monday, Dec. 4th.