Universities will enjoy benefits of unclaimed cash

Universities and community colleges will be getting their slice of the unclaimed lottery jackpot after the Legislature voted unanimously in favor of the measure Thursday.

The Legislature approved Gov. Jeb Bush’s recommendation that lawmakers use the unclaimed $30.1 million to match private donations to the universities.Bush had originally recommended that the money be spread among the state’s 67 school districts, but changed his mind.

In March, the winning ticket was sold in Miami for a $50 million jackpot, but nobody turned it in before the 180-day deadline. The $30.1 million is the lump-sum payment value of the jackpot. Laws usually require that the state return the unclaimed winnings to lottery promotions and prizes, but because colleges have complained that their budget needs exceed what was written in the budget last year, the governor decided to ask the Legislature to make an exception.

Michael Rierson, vice president of advancement at USF, said last week that the decision would greatly help USF, which was shorted $13 million in this year’s budget for matching donations.