The Florida Legislature voted unanimously Thursday to direct $30 million from an unclaimed lottery jackpot to community colleges and state universities.
A ticket sold in the Miami area last March was the sole winner of a $50 million jackpot, but nobody turned it in before a 180-day deadline. The total amount available from the jackpot is $30.1 million -- the same as if the winner took a lump sum payment instead of 30 annual payments.
State law normally requires unclaimed winnings to be put back into promotions and prizes. But universities and community colleges have complained that their enrollment has far exceeded what lawmakers planned for when they wrote the budget last year.
They also have a backlog of $137 million in their matching gift programs -- money that people have donated but can't be used because the state hasn't kicked in its part of the match.
Under the bill, colleges and universities can use the $30 million to match private donations.
In the House, Republican lawmakers defeated a Democratic amendment that would have taken $325 million from a federal economic stimulus grant and put it into education.
The Legislature is in special session primarily to spend that economic stimulus money on an incentive package to lure California-based Scripps Research Institute to open a biomedical research institute in Florida.