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Panel questions N.C. lottery's benefits

An oversight committee expressed concern today that the N.C. lottery's benefits to education could be overstated.

Members of the Lottery Oversight Committee said that, in at least some cases, state lawmakers and Gov. Mike Easley appear to have used lottery revenue only to replace education money that would have come from elsewhere.

“It appears that there is a substantial degree of supplanting and not 100 percent supplementing,” said Myron Coulter, co-chair of the committee and a former chancellor of Western Carolina University.

Committee members pointed to two of the four programs that the lottery is supposed to help fund: the More at Four program for pre-kindergarteners and salaries to hire more teachers to reduce elementary-school class sizes. In both cases, they said they suspected that lottery revenue is supplanting money that the General Assembly would have found from elsewhere.

“It appears to be the consensus of the committee that that's not a good thing,” said co-chair William Harrison, superintendent of the Cumberland County Schools.

The committee said it intends to study the issue further and make recommendations for lawmakers.