Sunday, June 22, 2014

Latest debate exposes lottery's lies

The debate in the state legislature over education funding shows, if there was ever any doubt, that the lottery's promises were based on a lie. Then-Gov. Mike Easley and other supporters claimed lottery proceeds would be used in addition to current education funding from traditional taxes — current appropriations would not be reduced and replaced by lottery funds. Skeptics doubted the veracity of those promises. The skeptics were right.

Education funding has been reduced at all levels, from pre-K through universities. Teacher aide positions have been eliminated. Classroom size has increased. University appropriations have dwindled. Community colleges have been swamped by anxious students hoping to learn marketable skills in a job market dropping like a broken elevator.

This latest debate over how much money the lottery should raise for teachers salaries bares the dirty secret of the "North Carolina Education Lottery" — the lottery has not improved education funding in North Carolina. It has merely added another funding source legislators can play with as they try to reach a balanced budget.

With Republicans running state government, taxes are dropping, especially for the wealthy, and the lottery, anathema to many conservatives, holds the only stable source of revenue. The stability of that source is what the debate in the General Assembly is about. Can the lottery produce more if it is allowed to spend more money on advertising, which encourages people to play the lottery in the false belief that they will win big bucks if they merely play often enough? Restrictions on advertising to present some facts about the long odds against winning will merely discourage the sale of lottery tickets. Having jumped onto the lottery bandwagon, the legislature cannot afford to discourage foolish activity by their constituents.

No comments: