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What would $540 million buy? Mega Millions lottery prize largest in history

BEMIDJI - It's hard to even begin to comprehend winning $540 million in tonight's Mega Millions jackpot, and especially to imagine what one would spend it on, but let's try.

The median household income of Minnesotan families is $57,243, which means the winner of tonight's jackpot would easily be able to give 9,433 Minnesotan families year-long paid vacations (before taxes) without breaking a sweat.

A Rick Santorum supporter could buy 5.4 million of his vests from Woolen Mills, and an average student who volunteers for Barack Obama could pay their own $25,250 in college debt, and then pay $10,274 to every one of the 52,557 students - post-grads included - to attend the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities for a year. (They'd have to throw in an additional $2,000 or so themselves.)

The winner, if he or she were more interested in self-gratification, could buy Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen's yacht, Tatoosh, and still have money for a few thousand bottles of Dom Perignon and some caviar. For the car enthusiast, $540 million could buy the SSC UItimate Aero, the 2004 Ford GT, a 1000hp competition pack Saleen S7 and every other car on the planet that would make James Bond weep.

"I'd buy a house and a car and I'd split the rest with my family. Maybe two houses," said Amber Moss, who has been selling Mega Millions tickets to eager customers at a Tesoro gas station in Bemidji. Winning, for Moss, would mean she could buy every single piece of property listed by Sotheby's Real Estate for Minneapolis with change to spare.

Casey Lavine, of Lavine's Turn Around gas station in Bagley, opts for a more philanthropic goal: to help develop his community in the event he wins big. There are plenty of local nonprofits struggling or cutting programs due to lack of funding, including the Beltrami Humane Society, the Headwaters Science Center, Paul Bunyan Transit and countless other organizations that could benefit from a solid check, of a cool $1 million or less.

Furthermore, if Lavine or another local philanthropic winner is declared, think of how easy it would be to restore the 33 faculty jobs lost last year at Bemidji State University. And the art history, theater, environmental landscaping and massage therapy programs at both BSU and Northwest Technical College could be up and running just as quickly as they were eliminated, too.

Or, if the winner is passionate about education, they could make sure the Headstart and BI-CAP programs in Bagley and Bemidji didn't go under, thus preventing hundreds of infants and young children from going without childcare, meals and the social interaction vital to their development.

The winner of the record Mega Millions jackpot, the largest of any lottery history, would have plenty of options.