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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.

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One of the few things that folks on the Left and the Right have agreed on in recent years is that the state lottery is a bad idea, that it preys on low-income families and is an inefficient and unreliable way to raise money for the operations of state government.

A coalition of unlikely suspects from policy groups on both sides of the political spectrum worked hard against the lottery for years, managing to keep it out of North Carolina until Democratic leaders of the General Assembly twisted and bent the rules to narrowly pass it in 2005.  And shame on them for doing it.

Since the lottery was created, the same groups that opposed its creation have worked against efforts to weaken restrictions on advertising or increase how much was spent on convincing people to throw their money away.

If you want to know why, read Sarah Ovaska’s report from 2012 on who plays the lottery and how it effects their lives.

Just a few years ago a Locke Foundation report rightly proclaimed that “Data confirm that N.C. lottery remains a poor bet for education funding.”  The Civitas Institute and even Americans for Prosperity weighed in with similar views.

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The WRAL story about the Senate Finance Committee approving another round of tax cuts includes an exchange which summarizes this legislative session so far and the disdain the folks running the General Assembly seem to have for the people they represent.

The committee was considering legislation that among other things would cost cities and towns millions of dollars in revenue by ending the local business privilege license tax.  Even some Republicans thought that might be worth some input from folks outside the committee.

“Are we going to have any public comment that’s going to be made before the vote, sir?” asked Sen. Tommy Tucker, R-Union. Rucho replied, “We hadn’t opened it up to that so, at this point, no.”

No reason to hear from anybody else. Senate leaders know what’s best for all of us.

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McC709The General Assembly kicks off the summer session at noon but the big story of the day comes an hour later when Governor Pat McCrory unveils his budget recommendations for next year.

It is worth remembering that McCrory only proposes the budget, the House and Senate actually approve it. And if last year is any indication, the final budget may not look much like the one released today.

Last March, McCrory sent lawmakers a spending plan that called for a one-percent across the board raise for teachers and state employees.  The final budget that lawmakers passed and that McCrory signed contained no raise for teachers or state workers.

McCrory’s budget called for $58 million in new funding for textbooks in schools to restore some of the cuts in textbook funding in the last two years. The final budget included no new funding for textbooks.

McCrory’s budget called for $9 million more for instructional supplies for schools. The final budget that passed the House and Senate instead cut another $6 million for classroom supplies.

And McCrory’s budget called for $3.3 million in funding for the highly successful drug treatment courts that the Republican General Assembly had defunded in the last two years. McCrory even singled out the drug courts in his State of the State speech. But the final budget passed by the General Assembly included no funding for the drug courts.

There are plenty more examples and then there is tax reform. McCrory also said in his State of the State speech that any tax reform must be revenue neutral, but the final tax plan approved last summer will cost $600 million a year when fully implemented and is a major reason why there is a budget hole this year and a shortfall projected for next year.

So take whatever you hear today and read in the headlines tomorrow about McCrory’s budget with a grain of salt. The leaders of the House and the Senate will make the major budget decisions again this year, not the Governor, no matter how assertive he promises to be.