Supplanting the truth

By: - April 5, 2005 10:35 pm

The House leadership’s shopping spree for pro-lottery votes may end one way or another Wednesday afternoon if House Speaker Jim Black follows through with his plan to bring the issue to the House floor for a vote after a Wednesday morning meeting of the House lottery charade committee.

It appears the final bill would allocate lottery proceeds for school construction, college scholarships and Governor Mike Easley’s More at Four program for at-risk kids. But that could change if another formula would get more House members to vote for the lottery.

Two things have not been in question, that Black will only support a lottery if the proceeds go to education, and that legislators want assurances that the lottery money will not simply supplant current education funding, resulting in no real increase in money for schools.

Most lawmakers who support the lottery and many who are leaning toward voting for it seem to be able to ignore, or at least live with, many of the troubling aspects of the lottery as public policy, the deceptive advertising, the impact on the poor, the unreliability of the revenue, etc.

All that is justified somehow, because North Carolina schools need the money the lottery can provide. It is hard to imagine many lawmakers voting for the lottery if they cannot be positive that the additional money will actually go to the schools.

The problem is they can’t be sure. There are plenty of ways to confirm that, studies of other states lotteries for education, the opinion of the professional legislative staff, and most importantly, the word of the Speaker of the House himself.

This past Sunday in the Star-News of Wilmington, columnist March Schreiner quotes Black talking about the lottery to a group of business leaders.

“It’s true that they (lottery dollars) will probably supplant” other state money.

That ought to settle it. No way to make sure that more money will go to our schools.

The last argument for the lottery is gone.

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Chris Fitzsimon

Chris Fitzsimon, Founder and Executive Director of N.C. Policy Watch, writes the Fitzsimon File, delivers a radio commentary broadcast on WRAL-FM and hosts "News and Views," a weekly radio news magazine that airs on multiple stations across North Carolina. [email protected] 919-861-2066