By John Peters
June 11, 2014
My, how things change.
State Republicans fought with all their might for nearly two decades to hold the idea of a state lottery at bay, and have never really warmed up to it in the nine years since legislation passed that set up the lottery.
Now, suddenly, state House Republicans have seemingly fallen in love with the lottery, so much so they approved a budget that calls for doubling the amount of money to be spent on lottery advertising.
The GOP is hurting. A year ago the Republican-controlled General Assembly enacted some significant tax cuts, most of which dropped taxes for the top earners in the state, along with corporations, while dumping new tax burdens on the middle class and the poor.
Now, with some of those tax cuts yet to take effect the state is already running into trouble attempting to balance its revenue and expenses, all the while hearing an increasingly ardent plea from teachers and their lobbying groups that our state’s teachers are underpaid and must get raises.
The House Republican’s answer? Beef up lottery advertising in hopes that the state-run gambling association, otherwise known as the North Carolina Education Lottery, would bring in an additional $177 million to fund the proposed 5-percent teacher raises.
So the House wants to allow the lottery administration to spend more money trying to entice individuals to foolishly throw their money away, in hopes of using this fools’ gold to fund teacher raises?
In fairness, the House budget does require the lottery to be a little more truthful in its advertising, giving an accurate representation of the odds against a person winning its larger games. It is unfathomable this wasn’t already part of all lottery advertising.
And the House does separates the issue of teacher pay and teacher tenure, as it should. Whether teachers deserve a pay raise, and even more importantly whether the state can afford that raise, should be considered entirely apart from the issue of teacher tenure.
The Senate budget, you may recall, offers a pay raise to teachers who voluntarily give up the job protection, which is unfair no matter how you slice it. Already a state court has found last year’s proposal to strip tenure away from teachers was illegal, so now the Senate is trying a bait-and-switch approach, offering more money while taking away job protection.
If tenure really is a target, we would suggest phasing it out over time, not making it part of any new teacher contracts, while leaving it in place for teachers already in the system.
And the House, we believe, is definitely on the right track, separating the two issues.