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House Speaker Black: Lottery Must Be Passed This Year

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RALEIGH, N.C. — As thousands of students returned to class Thursday, state lawmakers worked on two measures to pay for new schools -- one being a state lottery; the other, a sales tax.

Legislators attended only a half-day session, but House Speaker Jim Black said he could not leave without bringing up the subject of the lottery one more time.

Black said the lottery must be passed this year, and now he is turning to the public for help. His suggestion: Make a few phone calls.

"I would like for the public to put some pressure on Republican senators," Black said. "If they are not for raising money for education through taxes and they are not for raising money through the lottery, what are they for?"

Freshman Sen. Janet Cowell, D-Wake County, is one of the five Democrats who, along with 21 Republican senators, would vote against a state lottery.

"I welcome the calls from folks," Cowell said. "We've tried to answer every e-mail. That is part of legislation and part of the job."

Cowell said she supports finding ways to raise more revenue for schools and roads, but not with a lottery.

Black, however, argues that the lottery is the only answer.

"Not passing the lottery is costing $! million a day going out of this state," he said. "I don't know how in good conscience you can do that -- supporting education in other states and not supporting our own schools."

With the lottery apparently out of the picture for now, lawmakers are looking to the sales tax increase to fund school construction. Four bills that allow counties to levy a half-cent sales tax with voter approval have passed .


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