02/14/06 — Surprise, surprise: Lottery proceeds won’t just add to education spending

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Surprise, surprise: Lottery proceeds won’t just add to education spending

It should really not be too much of a surprise that state officials felt it necessary this week to remind voters and legislators of a fact that they seemed to think we knew about all along.

The money that is going to come in from the state’s new lottery is not just going to add dollars to the education budget. The proceeds from the education lottery are going to take over paying some of the bills currently covered by other state revenue.

That means the education lottery will also be a “juggle the money around” lottery.

OK, so maybe on the surface this isn’t such a bad idea. After all, more money spent in other places could mean more people would benefit from their tax dollars. And education is not really — or shouldn’t be — the only priority for state budget makers.

But the point is that this is just another of the seeming inconsistencies about the planning, implementation and direction of the lottery project.

And another reason to wonder if this project is really ready to kick off in a couple of months.

A lottery that will allow the state to raise funds to continue to improve the education system in North Carolina — and one that will relieve a little of the burden from taxpayers of paying for those improvements — is a good idea.

This money would be spent on tickets anyway — and is being spent — right across the border in other states that have lotteries. So, North Carolina dollars are funding scholarships and other educational programs for other people’s children.

Bringing that money back home is a win-win proposition.

But there are reasons to be concerned about what is going to happen next. Continuing questions about the lottery’s approval and the companies that will get the contracts suggest that there is a need for a good, hard look at not only what has happened, but what is coming.

There should be a crystal clear plan in place before the first ticket is sold — a roadmap of sorts so schools, officials and the public know exactly where the money will go and how much will be spent on education.

That way there won’t be any more surprises from Raleigh — at least not when it comes to money.

Published in Editorials on February 14, 2006 10:48 AM