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Wednesday, 12 January 2011 21:13

GOP may loosen rules on lottery proceeds

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With the GOP takeover of the state General Assembly, lottery money and how schools use what they’re given will come under new scrutiny.

“I wouldn’t have voted for a lottery, but it is the law now and it needs to be done properly,” said Jim Davis, an incoming freshman Republican senator from Franklin.

Davis unseated Democratic incumbent Sen. John Snow in November, helping Republicans — for the first time in more than a century — take control of the House and Senate.

“I think the research will show the poor counties have a higher per-capita lottery purchase, and those people can’t afford (to play the lottery),” Davis said. “But it is here now.”

Davis, a former longtime Macon County commissioner, is an unwavering, unapologetic supporter of local control. Though Davis said he finds Haywood County’s decision to use lottery money for football stadium upgrades difficult to rationalize, “if the school board wants to do that and commissioners OK the choice, they ought to be able to do that.”

Incoming state senator Ralph Hise, R-Spruce Pine, said he would support allowing schools to use their lottery funding for items other than capital improvements again this year.

“I wouldn’t just limit that to lottery funding,” Hise said. “I think that we have to give local school boards more options in using their funding. We know the level of cuts, and as we get more specific information, we hope to be able to give as much flexibility to state departments and others with their own budgets.”

That would be a welcome change to Macon County Schools Superintendent Dan Brigman.

“I would love to have more lottery dollars,” Brigman said. “The formula definitely needs to be revised.”

Money from the North Carolina Education Lottery is divided among school districts based on enrollment. Counties with a higher tax rate used to get a higher percentage of lottery money, meaning Western North Carolina with its historically low tax rate got penalized. That was changed by the General Assembly two years ago.

— By Quintin Ellison and Colby Dunn

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