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Playing the numbers with teacher raises

State lawmakers haven’t decided if the N.C. Education Lottery will be able to double the number of ads it runs and then use proceeds from increased sales to pay for teacher raises.

The House and Senate sides of the Republican-led legislature have stark differences in this year’s budget, and one of the biggest areas of difference is how to pay teachers and with what money.Lottery

House lawmakers want to double the advertising budget for the state-run lottery, in hopes it would turn out $106 million extra dollars to use for teacher raises. The budget proposal also includes several restrictions on advertising– including disclosing the odds of winning a top prize and a ban on advertising during collegiate athletic events.

(In case you missed, N.C. Policy Watch published an analysis of 2013 lottery data yesterday that found that all 10 of the counties with highest per capita sales all had high rates of poverty. Click here to read the article.)

The Senate proposed a much different teacher salary plan that required teachers to give up tenure in exchange for raises paid for with cuts to other education programs and the state Medicaid program.

Senate members heard from the N.C. Education Lottery director Alice Garland, who said the proposed restrictions put in place by state Rep. Paul “Skip” Stam, a longtime critic of the lottery, was an attempt to get rid of the lottery.

“The author of this language wants to see the lottery fail and wants to put the lottery out of business,” Garland said. “That is why those restrictions were put in the House budget.”

If those restrictions stay, Garland said the lottery will have to replace 60 billboard signs advertising jackpots for Powerball and Mega-Million signs as well as 3,000 other jackpot signs in retail stores.

“We absolutely believe we would be pushing sales to other states,” Garland said, if the lottery had to change its signs.

The new restrictions would mean $47 million less in revenue, she said. That information was conveyed to House lawmakers before they voted on their budget last week, according to the News & Observer.

Several of the Senate members who spoke at the appropriations meeting called the House plan to use lottery money to pay teachers risky and unwise.

Sen. Bob Rucho, a Charlotte Republican, said he didn’t want to expand the lottery’s advertising reach, and noted that the Garland was upfront about the lottery competing to win consumer’s extra dollars.

Today was “the first time that they’ve ever admitted the fact that they’re out competing for the disposable income of the working families of the people of our state,” Rucho said.

But not everyone expressed Rucho’s same level of opposition to the lottery.

“Fools will play the lottery and now if we can attract more fools to play the lottery and if they choose that, I’m not sticking a gun to their head,” said state Sen. Jerry Tillman, who was in favor of getting rid of advertising restrictions but not using lottery money for teacher pay. He added “ Let’s generate the money.”

 

To use an interactive graphic about how per capita sales varied in the state, click on the map below:

 

Lotterygraphic2013

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