Welcome Guest
Log In | Register )
You last visited December 4, 2016, 7:09 am
All times shown are
Eastern Time (GMT-5:00)

N.C. lottery is quickly piling up a lot of dirty laundry

Editorial / OpinionEditorial / Opinion: N.C. lottery is quickly piling up a lot of dirty laundry

Editorial By Asheville Citizen-Times
published February 19, 2006

The North Carolina Lottery may bring extra money into state coffers, but the questionable ethics surrounding its inception and the controversies it continues to generate raise serious questions about whether the cost outweighs the value.

Last week two new conflicts presented themselves. The first confirms the worst suspicions of many lottery opponents and the fears of some lottery supporters. The second is a slap in the face to Western North Carolinians who supported the lottery and one more reason to question the role House Speaker Jim Black played in crafting the lottery bill.

Fears that lottery money would be used to supplant rather than augment state spending on education were confirmed as a result of meetings between State Auditor Les Merritt and representatives of Gov. Mike Easley.

During the meetings Easley officials readily admitted that up to half of lottery proceeds won't be treated as additional money, but will be used to replace roughly $200 million now being spent to reduce class sizes in lower grades and help at-risk pre-kindergartners, both of which are Easley initiatives.

This, despite the fact that the lottery bill Easley signed on Aug. 31 promised that proceeds would not replace existing school revenue but would add to it. But, according to the Raleigh News & Observer, the state budget Easley signed two weeks earlier trumps the lottery bill and it did not include that promise.

In Easley's defense, he came into office advocating a lottery to pay for the education programs he wanted. Lawmakers appropriated money to support the programs from the General Fund. It seems Easley now wants to replace that money. According to the News & Observer, in a recent presentation to debt-rating agencies, state budget planners said $210 million of lottery proceeds would "replace General Fund fronting" of existing expenditures for the pre-kindergarten program More at Four and the reduction of class sizes through third grade.

That doesn't change the fact that many people feel they were deceived.

"In all likelihood, the public was hoodwinked," said Elaine Mejia, director of the N.C. Budget and Tax Center in Raleigh, which opposed the lottery. "If the governor had said this will support education programs already in place, I doubt it would have passed."

Easley's fiscal adviser Dan Gerlach told the News & Observer that the General Fund money now going to More at Four and class reduction, which will be supplanted by lottery revenue, will go for other education spending including increases in teacher pay. If that's what happens, the net effect will be an increase in education spending, as was promised by the lottery bill.

Regardless, the controversy heightens the perception that it took a great deal of sleight of hand to pass the bill in the first place and only adds to the angst surrounding it.

West loses out

But for WNC, even more disturbing news came in the revelation that Western North Carolina school districts will get less money from lottery profits than systems in 51 other counties in the state under a provision of the law that created the lottery.

The provision sets aside more than a third of the 40 percent of lottery profits that will be distributed to counties for school construction for the 51 counties whose property tax rates exceed the state average.

"No county in Western North Carolina gets a dime of that money," said Roger Aiken, a member of the Buncombe County Board of Education.

The idea was to help counties where residents pay higher property taxes, since those taxes generally go to school construction, according to Senate Majority Leader Tony Rand.

Whatever the intent, the effect will be to deprive Western North Carolina, which has seven counties considered low wealth, from receiving a penny of the money while Mecklenburg, represented by House Speaker Jim Black, stands to gain $9 million annually, even though it is not considered low wealth.

Aiken is right in asserting the unfairness of such an arrangement.

"Mecklenburg is in a better position to pay for their schools than a lot of counties in Western North Carolina," he said.

More to the point, Western North Carolinians will buy lottery tickets just as will the residents of the 51 counties slated to get the extra money. And they should receive their fair share of the proceeds.

Apparently, the provision caught WNC lawmakers off guard.

"I don't know that one single member of the western delegation (in the General Assembly) really realized the seriousness of it or the fallout," said Rep. Wilma Sherrill, R-Buncombe. "We're going to explore it and see if there is anything we can do or should do."

WNC lawmakers should indeed explore iwhat happened and do everything in their power to change the way the capital expenditure money is distributed. They owe their constituents that, at least, for being asleep at the wheel when such important legislation was being passed.

It would be different if the money were being targeted to poor counties such as those involved in the Leandro lawsuit, where students are clearly receiving a substandard education. That's obviously not the case, however.

It is outrageous to deprive western counties like Rutherford, where the unemployment rate is 8.3 percent, of a significant portion of the proceeds from the lottery their purchases will help to support in order to subsidize counties like Mecklenburg, where the unemployment rate is less than half that, at 4.1 percent.

Asheville Citizen-Times

We'd love to see your comments here!  Register for a FREE membership — it takes just a few moments — and you'll be able to post comments here and on any of our forums. If you're already a member, you can Log In to post a comment.

7 comments. Last comment 11 years ago by Chewie.
Page 1 of 1
Avatar
Indiana
United States
Member #29196
December 29, 2005
280 Posts
Offline
Posted: February 20, 2006, 9:08 am - IP Logged

Ok...call me a cynic but why does this surprise anyone?  "The public was hoodwinked..." by the politicians who run the lottery?  Gee!  In the immortal words of baseball legend Dizzy Dean:

"Who'd a thunk it!"

Jim 


Money frees you from doing things you dislike.  Since I dislike doing nearly everything, money is handy.  - Groucho Marx

    Avatar
    Sparta, NJ
    United States
    Member #18331
    July 9, 2005
    1977 Posts
    Offline
    Posted: February 20, 2006, 10:24 am - IP Logged

    Remember how the Tobacco lawsuit was going to provide billions for medical care for smokers in every state, and be used to prevent additional smoking?  The only group that held up to their part of the deal was the tobacco companies. Americans continue to vote in corruption every single election; as long as the politician promises to give them what they want.  The won't get it, but the next election, they'll fall for the same old promise again! 

    Tell me, do you really think America is on the path of a bright and fruitful future?  Compared to what the forfathers envisioned when they risked hanging and shed blood for a better country for their children!

    Cheers

    |||::> *'`*:-.,_,.-:*''*:--->>> Chewie  <<<---.*''*:-.,_,.-:*''* <:::|||

    I only trust myself - and that's a questionable choice

      Avatar

      United States
      Member #26469
      November 18, 2005
      160 Posts
      Offline
      Posted: February 20, 2006, 11:59 am - IP Logged

      All of these articles ignore the root of the problem only to use the lottery as a scapegoat.They need to address the politicians who change their stated goals after the fact.It's not the lottery that is corrupt.Heck,not one ticket has been sold yet.The blame should lie with the politicians who don't do their job by insuring that the stated goals are to be met.Who allows the changes to happen?They do.They don't stand up when it's time to,yet they are ready to whine after the fact.It's always the evil "other guys" who do all this skullduggery,yet it's all the legislature who allows it to happen.The whiners show no backbone of their own,so why cry when things are allowed to be changed?They need to stand up or shut up,while the controversial laws are passed.The original law was passed on Aug 30 2005.Why cry about it now?

        Avatar
        Sparta, NJ
        United States
        Member #18331
        July 9, 2005
        1977 Posts
        Offline
        Posted: February 20, 2006, 12:14 pm - IP Logged

        All of these articles ignore the root of the problem only to use the lottery as a scapegoat.They need to address the politicians who change their stated goals after the fact.It's not the lottery that is corrupt.Heck,not one ticket has been sold yet.The blame should lie with the politicians who don't do their job by insuring that the stated goals are to be met.Who allows the changes to happen?They do.They don't stand up when it's time to,yet they are ready to whine after the fact.It's always the evil "other guys" who do all this skullduggery,yet it's all the legislature who allows it to happen.The whiners show no backbone of their own,so why cry when things are allowed to be changed?They need to stand up or shut up,while the controversial laws are passed.The original law was passed on Aug 30 2005.Why cry about it now?

        Politicians never check on politicians - they would be next in the checking line!  That is the voters responsibility.  How many of those policitians are on their first term? None? How many will be re-elected this year?  Humm.  Lazy voters cause more problems then crooked politicians.  "Apathy Of The American Voter Is America's Greatest Threat" - Chewie!

        Cheers

        |||::> *'`*:-.,_,.-:*''*:--->>> Chewie  <<<---.*''*:-.,_,.-:*''* <:::|||

        I only trust myself - and that's a questionable choice

          Avatar

          United States
          Member #26469
          November 18, 2005
          160 Posts
          Offline
          Posted: February 20, 2006, 7:26 pm - IP Logged

          My point is that the politicians are just as apathytic when it comes to taking a stand on these issues until long after the fact.Then we see a bunch of piling on to a position after some op-ed piece gets people fired up.What a joke.Op-eds aren't news.Anyone can rant about what should be done as long as they aren't the ones to commit to standing on their own.

          Right now,the popular thing is to bash the lottery and anyone who had anything to do with it.Will we see these politicians turn down any monies comming to their districts when that time comes?I think not. 

            Avatar

            United States
            Member #10720
            January 23, 2005
            933 Posts
            Offline
            Posted: February 20, 2006, 11:24 pm - IP Logged

            I suggest that NC not have a Lottery, as they seem to do nothing but complain about it. Every other article on here has to do with NC Lottery. They even screwed up designing their own logo. What % of this audience would play there regularly? Not me.. it's like 500 miles away.

             

              Avatar
              Sparta, NJ
              United States
              Member #18331
              July 9, 2005
              1977 Posts
              Offline
              Posted: February 21, 2006, 8:02 am - IP Logged

              I suggest that NC not have a Lottery, as they seem to do nothing but complain about it. Every other article on here has to do with NC Lottery. They even screwed up designing their own logo. What % of this audience would play there regularly? Not me.. it's like 500 miles away.

               

              You have to put what you read in perspective.  The press is made up, mostly, of liberals; liberals, by default, support any do-gooder cause.  It sells newspapers (television ad, etc., etc.).  Based on the New York Times, America is the most corrupt country in the history of man; because of GWB.  Not that GWB is trustworthly, but the NYT igonores anything not on their agenda and popularizes everything on their agenda. 

              Crooked, greedy, self-serving politicians and do-gooders, do not make anything good or bad.  They just have the connections to get their viewpoint published.  You ever call a newspaper and try to get your viewpoint published?  I have.  Its amazing how someone can give you the finger over the telephone!  They don't care about truth or justice, only about profits.  The more pubilicity, the greater the contributions.  The Republicans push anti-abortion so their base will send money to continue the fight.  Democrats support abortion - for the same reason.  If they would both shut up and concentrate on making the country great, abortion would take care of itself.  If you want one, get one.  If you don't want one, don't get one.  What Betty, down the street is doing, is NONE of your business.  I'll tell you one thing, Betty, down the street, having six kids she can't afford impacts me more then her having six abortions.  But neither option is any of my business.

              Cheers

              |||::> *'`*:-.,_,.-:*''*:--->>> Chewie  <<<---.*''*:-.,_,.-:*''* <:::|||

              I only trust myself - and that's a questionable choice