North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley got his lottery for Christmas, and now he's looking at how to make it even better next year.
The second-term Democratic governor, who sat down with reporters Tuesday to talk about the year's accomplishments and struggles, highlighted some steps to secure lottery money and advance education. He also discussed the prospect of another campaign -- for the White House.
Q. Are there any changes you want to make in the lottery? At some point, we need to look at a constitutional amendment ... that lottery proceeds will be spent for education and education only and defining what those things are.
(Lottery money, by law, goes to the state's pre-kindergarten program, reducing early elementary class sizes, new schools and college scholarships.)
Q. Are you concerned about the controversies over three lottery commissioners resigning? Not my appointments. (Easley noted that the three resignations came from the four commissioners appointed by legislative leaders, not his five appointees.)
This state will be like every other state. The people who were opposed to it will come around ... The key to maintaining confidence in your lottery ... is that there's no (corresponding decrease in existing education money) and that it's going for a worthy cause.
Q. What else is on your agenda for next year? Focus on transitioning the economy in this state ... to a knowledge-based economy ... We've got to get our skill level of the work force up. (He mentioned programs such as "Learn and Earn," in which high school students attend community college classes.)
Q. Will Democrats suffer next year because of the recent controversies surrounding House Speaker Jim Black's office and a federal grand jury's demands for records from him?
You're seeing more problems caused by his staff -- or quasi-staff, I think. Every time I read something about it, I'm just very grateful for the people I have around me and the job they do, because you can be made to look pretty bad pretty quickly ... Just from my prosecutorial background, my guess is that he's being asked not to talk about what he is producing (for the grand jury) ... At some point people are going to want to know: What's the explanation here? And how did this happen? And what are you going to do to fix it?
Q. Will you run for the U.S. Senate in 2008? I don't have any interest in being in the legislature at any level.
Q. How about the presidency? I could do it. I just don't know if I want to run for it.