State Politics

Absent winner, economists say SC shouldn’t plan to spend its $61M share of lottery

S.C. economists delivered some bad news to legislators Thursday, advising them not to plan to spend a $61 million windfall because the winner of a Mega-Millions lottery still has not come forward to claim their $1.5 billion prize.

Legislators had a wish list for spending the one-time money — new voting machines or paying for deferred maintenance at universities and state-owned buildings or going toward $200 million in tax rebates, requested by Gov. Henry McMaster.

Those proposals remain on the table, House Ways and Means chairman Murrell Smith, R-Sumter, said Thursday.

“But, it obviously shrinks the amount that would be available to consider those items,” said Smith, whose powerful committee gets the first crack at writing the state’s general fund budget for the year that starts July 1. That budget is projected to be $9.3 billion.

“It’s the prudent thing to do when you’re not certain somebody’s going to claim that lottery ticket,” Smith said of the decision Thursday by the Board of Economic Advisors to remove the state’s share of the lottery winnings from its projected revenues. “It’s obviously an issue we’re going to have to deal with.

“But, by the same token, we had over $500 million (in new one-time money in the upcoming budget year), so it’s not anything catastrophic.”

South Carolina’s share of the $1.5 billion Mega Millions lottery ticket, bought at a Simpsonville convenience store in October, would be $61 million in state income taxes.

But the winner, who can remain anonymous under S.C. law, never has stepped forward to claim the prize. Theories abound as to why — the winner left the state, lost the ticket or is meeting with financial advisers before claiming their wealth before the mid-April deadline.

If the winner never comes forward, the $1.5 billion pot goes back to the 44 states that sell Mega Millions tickets.

“This is unusual, considering that it’s $1.5 billion,” a S.C. Lottery Commission spokeswoman said in December.

Related stories from The State in Columbia SC

Maayan Schechter (My-yahn Schek-ter) covers the S.C. State House and politics for The State. She grew up in Atlanta, Ga. and graduated from the University of North Carolina-Asheville. She has previously worked at the Aiken Standard and the Greenville News.