California's lottery is on a winning streak.
For the first time in its almost three-decade history, wagers at the state's gambling enterprise broke the $5-billion mark for the year that ended June 30.
Revenues rose 13% over the previous year, generating $1.35 billion for K-12 schools and higher education, a jump of 5%.
It was the fifth year in a row that sales increased and the 14th that provided schools with more than $1 billion.
California's ongoing economic recovery gets some of the credit for an uptick in sales.
But a more crucial factor, lottery officials said, was a legislative change that gave them more flexibility to reward bigger winning bets with bigger prizes. Another draw was the introduction last year of nationwide games, such as Powerball, with prizes in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
"The idea is that people are going to buy more quickly when they can win more money," lottery spokesman Alex Traverso said.
The upshot, he said, is that education might get a smaller percentage of each dollar wagered but winds up getting more money from a larger betting pool.
Almost 11 million California households will be getting some free electricity on their October-November bills, courtesy of the state's "cap-and-trade" program for curbing greenhouse gas emissions.
They'll automatically get an average credit of $35 as their share of the billions of dollars in new state revenue generated by auctions in which polluters buy credits to emit carbon dioxide and other gases that contribute to global warming.
The rebate is the second since April, bringing the total payout to consumers to $756 million, according to the Air Resources Board. The rebates are set to continue semiannually. State officials are urging consumers to spend their credits on energy-efficient lightbulbs as a way of extending their savings.
Average rebates are $40 per household for Southern California Edison residential customers, $36.24 for those served by San Diego Gas & Electric Co. and $29.80 for Pacific Gas & Electric Co. ratepayers.
Californians are dutiful recyclers. Many rinse and flatten beverage and juice cartons and drop them into their curbside containers.
Alas, less than 3% of those poly-coated paperboard cartons get recycled, according to a new report from Californians Against Waste. The group brought California its bottle recycling law in 1986.
Most recycling facilities — which handle glass, aluminum, plastics and paper — lack the machinery and the market for converting used cartons into new products, the report said. As a result, containers that consumers think are being recycled actually wind up in landfills, said Mark Murray, Californians Against Waste's executive director.
Murray plans to back a bill next year to bring juice and nondairy milk-like drinks into the recycling program.
"California," he said, "has demonstrated that with the right incentives and infrastructure, most any container type can achieve a successful recycling level."