A year ago we were celebrating the passage of the North Carolina Education Lottery bill. It was clear that our state couldn't reach its goals without providing more money for education, so the lottery was one way to make that happen.
While we're disappointed to learn that the original estimate of lottery funding for education appears to have been overly-optimistic, we are happy to hear that, in its first year, lottery proceeds going to education will be in the neighborhood of 350 million dollars.
That's money to be used for class-size reduction, preschool programs, school construction and college scholarships for needy students. But in next year's budget, Governor Easley has proposed reducing the lottery funding for education from 35 percent of lottery proceeds to 29 percent, and increasing the amount of money paid out for prizes from the current 52 percent to more than 59 percent.
According to lottery officials, the increased prize pool will generate stronger ticket sales and that will boost lottery proceeds. We think that's just wrong.
The lottery bill was passed based on 35 percent of proceeds going to education; limiting the amount of money spent on advertising and prohibiting ads that encourage people to play; and ensuring that lottery proceeds will indeed be additional education dollars, not replacing existing education funds.
We're told that "bait and switch" isn't all that uncommon in North Carolina politics, and that appears to be what's happening with this new proposal. If you agree, you need to let your state legislators know how you feel.