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Governor Pat McCrory called reporters to his office Friday afternoon and with his cabinet standing dutifully behind him proclaimed that he will be proud to sign the budget passed by the House and Senate.

In case you are wondering when the signing ceremony will take place, a Monday Associated Press story reported that it will happen after McCrory actually reads the budget.

McCrory didn’t know when he would sign the budget bill into law as “the governor is reviewing it line by line,” spokesman Ryan Tronovitch said by email.

So if you are keeping score at home, McCrory announced Friday that he was proud to sign the budget that on Monday his staff admitted he still hadn’t read. That’s reassuring.

 

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.