The complimentary USA Today that hotels give to their guests has this as the only news about North Carolina in their  State-by-State news section this morning.

The Wildlife Resources Commission would like anyone who spots a wild turkey through Aug. 31 to enter it into an online database.

Apparently nothing else is going on in Raleigh these days. Please keep your eyes peeled for those wild turkeys.

The controversy about the House plan to cynically increase lottery sales to fund teacher pay hikes is getting more troubling every day.

Saturday the News & Observer reported that lottery officials sent a memo to key legislative staffers before the House budget vote explaining that the lottery could not raise the amount  of money included in the House budget because of advertising restrictions the budget also imposed.

Rep. Nelson Dollar, the chief House budget writer, wouldn’t say if he saw the memo before the House vote, which he almost certainly did.  There’s no way that legislative staffers would have kept that memo to themselves.

That means that Dollar and other House leaders intentionally misled members of the House and the public about the budget they were debating. It also means they passed a budget they knew was not balanced.

This morning the News & Observer reports that lottery director Alice Garland says she personally told Dollar before the House budget vote that the lottery could not raise the additional money, leaving no question that he knew he was making false claims about the budget he was supporting.

Garland also confirmed that documents detailing the flaws in the House budget assumptions about lottery revenues were given to key officials.

And even worse, Garland says Dollar told her to “stay quiet about it.” So much for budget integrity in the North Carolina House.

Governor Pat McCrory apparently is not willing to agree publicly with himself.  The Associated Press reports that McCrory “declined to say whether he believes raising lottery advertising expenses to get more money is a good idea, saying he won’t negotiate through the press.”

The House budget cynically increases the lottery advertising budget to raise more money in lottery sales to fund teacher raises—even though House leaders knew when they passed the budget last week that their plan would not raise as much money as they claimed.

McCrory is declining to agree with a statement in made just 18 months ago in his 2013 State of the State speech before the General Assembly when he called on state lawmakers to cut what he said was the “bloated and frankly annoying lottery advertising” to increase funding for school technology.

Lawmakers ignored McCrory’s proposal last year and now House leaders are headed in the opposite direction, counting on the ability of the state to convince more people to buy more lottery tickets to fund a teacher salary increase.

McCrory was right last year.  And he ought to say it again now, loudly and publicly.  Standing up against something he is already on the record opposing is not negotiating through the press, it is leadership. McCrory should try it sometime.

 

The most startling story over the weekend was the revelation in a report by the News & Observer that House leaders knew that the budget they passed last week was based on flawed numbers but passed it anyway.

The N.C. Education Lottery warned legislative staffers that the House’s plan to boost lottery sales by doubling the advertising budget would generate only $59 million next year – far less than the $106 million designated in the budget.

It is outlined in a fiscal memo sent to legislative staffers before the House voted Thursday and Friday to approve the $21.1 billion spending plan.

House budget chief Nelson Dollar wouldn’t say if he saw the memo before the House vote, which means of course that he definitely saw it. There’s no way the legislative staff would keep that information to themselves.

That means that Dollar and other House leaders knowingly misled their colleagues and the public by falsely claiming that the lottery would raise enough money to pay for the teacher pay raise.

It’s hard to know what is worse, cynically relying on the predatory lottery to raise money for teachers in the first place, or pushing ahead with the plan knowing that what they were saying on the House floor was not true.

Either way, it’s a shameful episode that once again calls into question the credibility of the folks currently running the General Assembly.

Apparently it doesn’t bother Rep. Paul Stam that the House budget he supports is playing games with revenue numbers and isn’t really balanced.

Stam, to his credit a longtime opponent of the predatory state lottery, tells the News & Observer that he is not happy with the plan to increase lottery revenue by doubling the advertising budget but that it did give him the chance to put more restrictions on advertising that will make it harder for the lottery to raise the  money that the budget forecasts.

Stam said the new restrictions mirror a bill he filed last year, known as the Honest Lottery Act, that he said “plants the seeds of the ultimate destruction of the lottery.” He believes the lottery dupes citizens into spending money without realizing how unlikely it is for them to win big.

Stam said he was not concerned that teacher raises are now tied closely to the promise of increased lottery sales.

If his effort instead stifles the lottery, lawmakers could shift money from elsewhere in the budget to pay for teacher raises, Stam said. He said he is supporting the overall plan to allow for more lottery ad spending because it also adopts his efforts to implement more restrictions.

“Am I happy about it? No,” Stam said. “I’m sanguine.”

Got that? Stam is supporting a budget that counts on regressive lottery revenue even though he added provisions to make it harder for the lottery to raise the revenue needed to fund the teacher raises called for in the spending plan.

Lawmakers could apparently “shift money from elsewhere.” Except lawmakers are voting on the budget now that explicitly counts on the additional lottery money. That’s quite a tangled semantic web that Rep. Stam seems to have weaved to ease his conscience for expanding the lottery he loathes.