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Lottery Oversight Committee: Schools needs more money

If you went out and bought a ticket for that $355 million jackpot for last night’s MegaMillions drawing, sorry it didn’t work out. Maybe next time?

But, that $1 ticket did send 30 cents to help fund specific education programs in the state, a portion of lottery revenue that some think is a bit too stingy, including members of the Lottery Oversight Committee, which operates in an advisory role to state legislators.

The committee sent a letter as part of the year-end review to the outgoing leadership of the General Assembly  advising that state leaders make the N.C. Education Lottery change its ways and return to sending 35 percent of its proceeds to education.

A 2007 loophole inserted at the behest of then-Gov. Mike Easley let lottery officials push the initial funding formula to the side, and allowed lottery officials to hit the 35 percent mark “to the extent practicable.” As a result, the percentage of revenue that goes to education has steadily decreased, down to 29 percent this past year, while lottery officials have used the extra money to pump up prizes in hopes of attracting more players.

But that explanation doesn’t sit right with the Lottery Oversight Committee members. They also took issue with $35 million the legislature and Gov. Bev Perdue took from the lottery to pay for expected Medicaid expenses this year.

The Committee hopes that these actions will be short-lived and that the Lottery can quickly return to the goals and instructions that the legislature and the majority of the citizens of North Carolina expected when the Lottery began…. The Committee makes the following recommendation: that the 2011 General Assembly act to return to the 35% of net revenues which must be allocated to Education; and, further, that those funds be used for education.

You can read the letter and recommendations of the Lottery Oversight Committee  here. Or feel free to check out two earlier N.C. Policy Watch investigations on the lottery, about the funding levels and a more recent report that found North Carolinians are spending $200 a year on average on lottery tickets and that the poorest counties in the state are where per capita lottery sales are the highest.

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