By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League
June 12, 2014
A plan to fund teacher pay raises by doubling the N.C. Lottery advertising budget with the hope of raising an additional $106 million next year is both a risky and depressing proposition, according to the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League.
“We are truly saddened by this attempt to increase educator pay that rides on the backs of people’s addiction,” Creech said Wednesday of the budget proposed by the N.C. House. He said he’s hopeful the plan will be quashed in the Senate, where lawmakers are much less amenable to the idea.
“My first thought, they need to call the gambling hotline. They seem to have a gambling problem,” quipped Sen. Tom Apodaca (R-Buncombe) of the Lower Chamber.
While both bodies intend to raise minimum teacher pay to $33,000, the Senate’s proposed budget would offer 11 percent pay hikes in exchange for teacher tenure. It would not fund teacher assistants in second and third grades, meaning more than 7,000 posts could be eliminated. The House version doesn’t cut assistants nor eliminate tenure. It offers teachers an average 5 percent raise that would be paid for, in part, by gamblers persuaded by an increasing number of lottery ads to dig deeper into their pockets.
To make the measure more appealing to those already concerned about the lottery’s negative effects, House budget writers also included language from Rep. Paul Stam’s (R-Wake) proposed, “Honest Lottery Act,” which requires ads for the games to disclose the longer odds of winning.
“Granted, a budget shortfall leaves lawmakers with difficult choices. And, House budget writers deserve to be commended for trying to suppress some of the negative effects of doubling lottery advertising,” Dr. Creech said. “Still, I suggest any effort to raise teacher salaries that relies on increasing people’s addictions ought to be rejected.”
He said even though many will argue the lottery represents a matter of “personal freedom,” of that “no one is forced to buy a lottery ticket,” what isn’t often understood is that the vast majority of lottery profits are supplied by people who are habitual gamblers. In fact, Stop Predatory Gambling reports that state lotteries make 80 percent of their profits from 10 percent of their users.
“In other words, the lottery business model depends on addiction. No matter how piously the words ‘personal freedom’ may be bandied about, people addicted to gambling and consequently deep in debt are really not free,” Dr. Creech added. “In a state and nation where liberty is considered our most sacred right, it is unconscionable the state promotes something that sustains or profits state coffers because it renders many citizens expendable to a form of slavery. No North Carolinian should be reduced to collateral damage because teachers need, want, or even deserve a pay raise.”
The irony of House GOP leaders’ attempts to further hitch the state’s education wagon to the stars of lottery proceeds after most Republicans adamantly opposed North Carolina’s establishment of the lottery in the first place hasn’t been lost on the media nor on lawmakers such as Speaker of the House Thom Tillis (R-Mecklenburg), who said this week that if Republicans had controlled the Legislature in 2005, the lottery would have never made it to a vote.
“But it is here, and you can’t necessarily unring that bell when you’re talking about hundreds of millions of dollars going to education,” Tillis reasoned.
Not surprisingly, some lawmakers are disturbed by the idea of putting more eggs in the lottery basket.
“I do feel uncomfortable rolling the dice and betting on money that may not materialize,” Rep. Debra Conrad (R-Forsyth) said.
Many Democrats criticized the plan as well, pointing out that when their Party led the push for the lottery, they intended for proceeds to supplement education spending, not supplant it. Despite the hopes of gambling enthusiasts, the state’s lottery did not boost education funding during its first five years, according to a North Carolina Justice Center Study. In fact, the percentage of lottery proceeds earmarked for education has gone from 35 percent down to 28 percent.
“Lottery officials have justified the change by positing that they make more money for education by using profits to fund larger prizes, which in turn lead to higher sales and, in the end, more money to education programs,” the 2011 study reported. “However, the result has been that growth in lottery sales has outpaced the increase in the amount of lottery money going to education by a rate of 5 to 1 over the past two years.”
If the House has its way, the Lottery Commission could spend more than $34 million on ads next fiscal year, running more TV commercials and online appeals. Lottery officials report they would also move up the start date for new gambling options, including a multi-state game. To meet House budget projections, an additional $425 million — a 23 percent increase in sales — is needed.
“Increasing lottery advertising will likely increase lottery sales, but it will also enslave more people to the insidious practice of playing a ‘sucker’s game,'” Dr. Creech said. “In the interest of a truly just society, there must be a better way.”
Take Christian Action Now:
First, stop and pray for all of our state’s lawmakers. Pray that God will give them great wisdom in finding ways to meet all of our state’s needs. Their lot is not an easy one and they need our prayers.
Second, at the time of this story’s posting, it appears the NC House will pass the budget with the lottery proposal included. Therefore, focus should now be on the Senate. Please take the time to contact your lawmaker in the North Carolina Senate and urge him or her to hold the line by rejecting any effort to include an increase in lottery advertising as a part of the budget bill.
There is no time to waste. Please do it now. Budget negotiations will be moving quickly and the Senate will likely take up the House version of the budget next week.
Here’s how to contact your NC Senator:
Go to the “Who Represents Me” page of the NC General Assembly website;
Type in your address in the “Find address or place” search field at the top of the NC Senate Map;
Click on the district in which your address is located, and then click “Open Member Page;”
Call the phone number nearest the top of your Senator’s contact information (directly underneath their legislative office address);
If you don’t get to speak directly to your Senator, speak with his/her Legislative Assistant. Be sure to tell either your Senator or his/her Legislative Assistant that you are a constituent, giving your name, place of residence, and phone number.
Please pass along this information to your family, friends, and church family and urge them to respond too.