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N.C. Lottery funding controversy widens

North Carolina LotteryNorth Carolina Lottery: N.C. Lottery funding controversy widens

The North Carolina Lottery has not yet started, and already Gov. Mike Easley may be doing what lottery watchdogs feared would happen:  Easley is looking to replace funding on existing state programs with lottery revenues, rather than putting the new-found revenue toward new projects.

Easley's staff on Wednesday defended his plans for spending money from the new state lottery, saying the governor would not use lottery funds to replace tax money that's already going to education.
Some critics, however, say it looks like he would.

"We said it all along," said Bill Brooks, head of the Family Policy Council, which opposes the lottery. "Lotteries around the country are notorious for replacing general revenues with lottery money."

At issue is whether the Democratic governor is breaking a pledge to add lottery money — as much as $400 million a year — to the $6.6 billion the state already spends on public education.

The governor plans to use about half of the lottery money to replace $203 million in tax money that the state spends each year on Easley's two signature education programs — reducing class size and prekindergarten education.

Easley has said since he took office in 2001 that he wanted lawmakers to provide state start-up money for the education programs and that he would use lottery money for the programs once a game passed.

The House and Senate signed off on the lottery last summer, and gaming officials have progressed with plans to get the first scratch-off lottery tickets available by March 30. The game should bring in about $800 million in the first year; at least 35 percent has to go to education, under the lottery law.

In response to questions from Republican State Auditor Les Merritt about lottery spending, Easley's office recently said the governor wants to use lottery money to replace the funds that came from tax revenues — known as the General Fund.

That set off critics, including Elaine Mejia, director of the N.C. Budget and Tax Center, who said, "In all likelihood, the public was hoodwinked," according to The Associated Press. "If the governor had said this will support education programs already in place, I doubt it would have passed."

But the governor's staffers say he would still use the tax money for other education causes — such as raising N.C. teacher pay to the national average — rather than spending it elsewhere.

Easley staffers say the way to evaluate whether the governor is right is to look at the budget he proposes in the spring. If it has more money than the typical spending increase for education, they said, taxpayers will know Easley kept his promise.

"Next year's budget will clearly show education spending from the General Fund going up," said Easley spokeswoman Sherri Johnson.

Easley has also said he would push for a constitutional amendment to make sure lottery money always goes to education causes. Lawmakers won't be able to consider such legislation until they return to Raleigh in May.

Lottery Post Staff and Charlotte Observer

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6 comments. Last comment 11 years ago by cps10.
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LOTTOMIKE's avatar - cash money.jpg
Tennessee
United States
Member #7853
October 15, 2004
11338 Posts
Offline
Posted: February 16, 2006, 8:42 am - IP Logged

you can't believe a politician nine times out of ten.....they'll smile and promise you the moon and you'll get dirt.

    cps10's avatar - Lottery-004.jpg
    The Carolinas - Charlotte
    United States
    Member #21627
    September 12, 2005
    4138 Posts
    Offline
    Posted: February 16, 2006, 10:53 am - IP Logged

    NINE times out of ten??! You are being FAR too generous there Mike!

     

    Big Smile

      Tenaj's avatar - michellea
      Charlotte NC
      United States
      Member #17406
      June 18, 2005
      4053 Posts
      Offline
      Posted: February 16, 2006, 9:08 pm - IP Logged

      ConfusedYet we still vote for them.  It's like choosing between two evils.  You'll be damned if you do and damned if you don't.

      takeemtothebank

        Avatar
        Northern California
        United States
        Member #19948
        August 9, 2005
        151 Posts
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        Posted: February 17, 2006, 2:24 pm - IP Logged

        If you look at a lottery like Georgia, or even New Mexico, where (at least a nice chunk in GA and now all of the $$$ in NM) lottery proceeds go for college scholarships the case is clear - people know that even though they lose most of the time, their kids, family and neighbors can attend a good school without taking out huge loans or needing big chunks of cash.  Its a pretty easy sell - people can rationalize long-term play.

         

        Unfortunately the people that run colleges always figure out that they have a locked-in funding source and they start implementing double-digit annual tuition adn fee increases. Add the fact that high schools become pressured to inflate grades, more kids start attending college, while college costs escalate faster than inflation and you run into a funding problem real quick unless lottery sales can grow at the same rate colleges raise costs.

         

        The more complicated the pols try to make it, the harder it is for people to perceive any value from the lottery - and the easier it is to make people mad.

         

        Sometimes its downright sickening - no wonder people stop supporting lotteries (and why state legislators as a whole often have favorability ratings of under 30%)


          United States
          Member #379
          June 5, 2002
          11296 Posts
          Offline
          Posted: February 20, 2006, 12:50 pm - IP Logged

          I don't think any lottery-in-the-making has faced the problems that NC's has had. It would be a shame if it's halted.

            cps10's avatar - Lottery-004.jpg
            The Carolinas - Charlotte
            United States
            Member #21627
            September 12, 2005
            4138 Posts
            Offline
            Posted: February 20, 2006, 2:39 pm - IP Logged

            CASH

            You are right about that...now you know where I stand much like you do with the NY Lottery.

            The North Carolina Education Lottery - so much a joke that here are their mascots:

            Stooges