Wisconsin Lottery winners looking to spend their windfalls on new cars, trips to the Caribbean or other expensive treats could have to curb their splurge if they’ve failed to pay property taxes, parking tickets or other city bills, under a provision in Democrat Gov. Tony Evers’ budget proposal.
The provision, requested by the Department of Revenue, would allow cities and counties to enter agreements with the agency that would allow it to collect municipal debts from residents who win more than $600 in the state lottery.
In addition to parking tickets and property taxes, debts could include things like fees for ambulance rides, outstanding utility payments for municipalities that run their own utilities, and “any payment that would be owed directly to a municipality,” said DOR spokeswoman Patty Mayers.
The change would expand an existing program that allows the state to collect back state taxes and child support payments from lottery winnings, and is similar to an existing program that allows municipalities to collect outstanding citizen debt from state tax refunds.
And that debt can be substantial.
Madison Finance Director David Schmiedicke said the city is trying to collect some $7.6 million in outstanding debt through the existing state program, $7.3 million of which consists of fines levied by the municipal court for violation of various city ordinances.
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In Dane County, there was some $7.8 million in delinquent property taxes on the books going back to 2007, according to the treasurer’s office.
In addition to entering agreements with DOR, cities and counties would need to refer the specific debts they’re looking to collect to the agency. If the debt to be paid off under the program totals more than the lottery winnings, all of the winnings would be seized.
“The county might look into something like this if it actually becomes part of the final budget as an enhancement to the current options for collections,” said Charles Hicklin, Dane County chief financial officer and controller.
Madison Mayor-elect Satya Rhodes-Conway was not available to comment on whether the city might join the program if it becomes law, according to a spokeswoman.
With the Legislature controlled by Republicans, nothing in Evers’ proposed budget is a sure thing. Legislative leaders have said they intend to craft their own budget. Neither of the Republican leaders of the state’s budget committee were available to comment on the proposal to collect municipal debts from lottery winnings.