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State workers teamed to win $319M lottery

ALBANY -- Within a state workforce already threatened with layoffs, a small group has apparently found the sudden luxury of walking away from their jobs if they choose.

No one has stepped forward to claim the weekend's $319 million Mega Millions jackpot, the fifth-largest in the game's history.

But media reports have said seven workers at the state Division of Housing and Community Renewal picked the lucky numbers, and an agency lawyer said yesterday that he knows some of them.

"People think it's great that they won," lawyer Dave Diamond said outside agency headquarters, just a few doors from Coulson's convenience store, where the ticket was sold. "A lot of people are wishing they'd played, but most are just really happy for the winners." He wouldn't identify any of the winners.

New York is facing a grinding budget deficit, estimated at $10 billion this year before state leaders announced a deficit-cutting spending deal Sunday. In negotiations, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo had suggested up to 9,800 employees might lose their jobs.

Store owner Steve Hutchins said everybody's still talking about the mega-win. But as far as knowing who actually holds the golden ticket? He's just hearing the same talk others are.

Toussaint Johnson, who works for Morgan Linen in nearby Menands, scratched off an instant-win ticket inside the store yesterday. He plays Mega Millions when the jackpots get big enough.

"I think it's about time someone here in the Capital District won it," Johnson said. "To see it happen here in my hometown, it's great. I wish it could have been me but maybe next time."

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