RALEIGH, N.C. — For months, lottery supporters touted the numbers game as a way to bolster North Carolina's education funding. They said it meant more cash for the classrooms and school construction.
"North Carolina has an education lottery," said Gov. Mike Easley.
When the lottery bill first passed, the provision stated revenues should supplement the education budget, rather than substitute for funds already allocated.
"They struck that language out of the lottery altogether," said John Rustin with the N.C. Family Policy Council, a conservative nonprofit group.
Rustin said the change could shortchange education funding.
"There's the concern the big shell game is going to take place," he said.
Without the provision, lawmakers still must put lottery proceeds into the education fund. But then they can dip into that same fund, pull out money and put it elsewhere.
Rustin said the result is an education fund that is no better off than before a lottery. He believes this could also hurt school funding in other ways.
"Because the public has the perception that the lottery is providing all the educational needs, they're more reluctant to pass bond referendums for school construction," he said.
Late Friday, Easley's office said he's not worried about the change, because the law clearly defines how lottery money will pay for four new education initiatives. A spokesman said the governor will fight any effort to raid the existing education fund.