Governor leaves video gaming and ABC privatization out of her proposed budget
By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League
RALEIGH — As lawmakers analyze exactly what’s in the Governor’s newly released $19.9 billion proposed spending plan, the Christian Action League is rejoicing over what didn’t make it into the budget — legalized video gambling and privatized liquor sales.
Both of these bad ideas — recommended by liquor and gambling promoters as robust and hard-to-resist revenue resources — were considered and rejected by Gov. Bev Perdue. Her staff phoned the Christian Action League Thursday in advance of her budget announcement to let the executive director know that video gambling would not be a part of the package.
“We were glad to learn that once again the Governor has looked beyond the immediate need for cash flow and truly considered what is right for North Carolina both now and in the long-term,” said the CAL’s Rev. Mark Creech. “The promises of quick money from legalized video poker, just like potential revenues from selling the ABC system, are not worth sacrificing the health and welfare of North Carolina citizens. The Governor deserves praise for making these decisions.”
When criticism of some ABC boards broadened last year and the push for privatization of liquor sales gained momentum, the Rev. Creech wrote the Governor a letter asking her to keep the current Alcoholic Beverage Control system in place and work within the legislative process to correct problems. Rev. Creech worked with the Joint Study Committee on Alcoholic Beverage Control which recommended tightened controls on local boards and more stringent ethics rules and the North Carolina General Assembly approved the historic “Modernization of the ABC System” legislation. But even after signing this legislation, feeling great pressure from a looming budget deficit that would be the largest in NC history, the Governor pursued with efforts to get out-of-state consultants to assess the ABC system’s worth.
Earlier this year, Rev. Creech wrote Gov. Perdue another letter which was also sent to all incoming legislators on the subject of privatization of liquor sales urging them to keep North Carolina’s ABC system in place.
After much speculation that she still might roll out a privatization plan, Gov. Perdue announced Jan. 20 that even if such a move would bring in a forecasted $300 million, licensed liquor sales would not be the right business decision for North Carolina. She went further to say that she didn’t want to be “the governor who has to hold my granddaughter’s hand as we walk past the liquor bottles on our way to the toy aisle in WalMart, or towards the cereal in Food Lion. That isn’t North Carolina. That isn’t who we are or what we want to become.”
Her staff also phoned the CAL before her announcement against privatization to give Rev. Creech the good news.
“We know these issues are still out there and they can still be brought to the budget table. Gambling and alcohol promoters aren’t lessening their efforts in the least,” Creech said. “But we’re also thrilled to know that our Governor is looking beyond pie-in-the-sky revenue predictions.”
Those promises of money, money, money keep coming from the video gaming industry, which had convinced some lawmakers last year that $480 million could be pouring straight into state coffers with a simple law change to legalize and tax the already popular games. As recently as Feb. 10, some members of the Republican Caucus hosted a meeting to investigate the issue and hear from both proponents and opponents of legalized video sweepstakes. Those promoting the industry insist that the video sweepstakes ban passed last year to shore up earlier laws against video poker isn’t enforceable and won’t keep the games at bay. The idea is that gambling isn’t going away so the state might as well tax it and get a piece of the action.
But Creech reminded lawmakers in that meeting that “whether the government should enhance its revenues with gambling monies by making losers of its citizens is a moral question and not simply an economic one.”
“That’s the bottom line here, the fact that there’s more to the bottom line than dollars and cents,” Creech said this week. “While we don’t believe that video gambling or privatized liquor sales make sense financially, even if they did, that wouldn’t make them right.”
“I believe our Governor found the will of God in these matters. God will honor them that honor Him and His ways. We should continue to pray for her and all our leaders as they make tough decisions on both economic and social issues,” he added.