Budget news and hailing the lottery five

By: - August 8, 2005 10:02 am

Barring any last minute snag, legislative leaders will release the final budget agreement Monday night and lawmakers will vote on it Wednesday and Thursday. The House and Senate spin doctors are already hard at work putting together talking points legislators to use to convince us that this is the best budget they could put together give the state’s financial situation.

Details are still sketchy, but items widely reported include a state employees pay raise of 2 percent or $850, whichever is greater. Teachers will get a slightly larger raise. The budget will contain lottery provisions that will relax many of the restrictions in the lottery legislation passed by the House and will spend lottery proceeds on school construction, early childhood initiatives and college scholarships.

One report over the weekend said that the final budget cuts $2 million from Child Protective Services. That is troubling for two reasons, the program needs more money not less, and the cut was in neither the House nor the Senate budget, raising questions about what other cuts were made as part of the final deal.

One of the holdups in the every budget negotiation is deciding which legislators’ pet projects would be funded. This year was no exception. The Washington Daily News provided details of one example, reporting that the budget will include $500,000 to restore an historic theater in Washington.

The money was not part of the original House or Senate budget but the story quotes a staff member for Senate President Pro Tem Marc Basnight saying that it was "inserted during spending negotiations," and that the source of the funds could not be determined.

Nothing wrong with restoring an historic theater but a budget process that inserts half a million dollars for theater renovations and cuts $2 million from services to protect abused children is a process that needs some overhauling. Wonder what other projects were inserted during negotiations?

More details and analysis of the budget in the next Fitzsimon File. Check www.ncpolicywatch.com <https://ncnewsline.com> for late-breaking budget news.

The lottery provisions in the budget set up a final lottery vote in the Senate and unless someone changes their vote, the lottery will fail, thanks to the opposition of all 21 Republicans and five Democrats willing to stand on principle despite intense pressure from the Senate leadership.

The lottery five are Sen. Charlie Albertson from Duplin County, Sen. Dan Clodfelter from Mecklenburg County, Sen. Janet Cowell from Wake County, Sen. Ellie Kinnaird from Orange County, and Sen. Martin Nesbitt from Buncombe County.

All five Senators told the Winston-Salem Journal this pass week that they remain committed to voting against a lottery if it comes to the Senate floor as a stand-alone bill.

Good for them. The state does not need to enter the huckster business and try to convince people that buying lottery tickets is the best way to find prosperity. Legislators standing on principle will make sure it doesn’t happen.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

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