There were some very surprising questions asked at the very first "in person" meeting of the North Carolina Lottery Oversight Committee. Though as defined in state statute in Chapter 18C?172, the Committee was supposed to meet on a quarterly basis since the enacting of the lottery oversight law in 2006, the Committee members had never met each other face to face. The meeting began with some brief introductions of the members. The most noteworthy of the turned out to be Eddie Davis, III, the outgoing president of the North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE). The other members tended to be either retired educators or financial managers.
Legislative staff presented the breakdown on the lottery revenue sources that included:
- 55% from so-called scratch off instant games
- 29% from multi state Powerball drawings
- 10% from the Carolina pick 3 game
- 4% from the Carolina Cash 5 game
- 1% from the millionaire raffles.
Somehow, the staff neglected to include the revenue from unclaimed prizes which the lottery staff had anticipated to be as much as $9 Million. How much of this money does the Lottery Authority have?
By far, the most interesting questions asked by members revolved around the use of lottery revenues to fund the pre-kindergarten program "More at Four" (aka MAF) Lottery revenues are used in the following manner:
- 40% to aid in school construction
- 26% to Pre-K More at Four
- 24% to class size reduction
- 10% to college scholarships
Committee members Davis, former Wake county commissioner and retired Minority Education specialist, Betty Mangum and Dr. Ronald Copley, a financial manager from Wilmington, grilled John Pruette, MAF’s Director. The biggest question the members had about whether or not the funds given to More at Four were supplanting or supplementing existing funds. (MAF’s budget is $140 million and it recieves $84 million from the lottery) Dr. Copley asked Pruette point blank,"What would MAF do if the lottery money wasn’t available?" Pruette responded by sighting the previous involvement of federal funds. The questioning continued until the presiding Co-Chairman, Dr. Myron Coulter (formerly the Chancellor at Western Carolina) attempted to restrain the members of the committee by suggesting that maybe the answers to these difficult questions could be put off until another time.
When the lottery was originally passed its proponents vigorously asserted that money from the lottery would only add to education funds and not replace them. Reality sunk in during last session of the legislature when Governor Easley decided to use lottery dollars to pay money back to the General Fund that had already been used to fund classroom size reduction and More at Four.
The most comfortable man in the room at the meeting certainly had to be Lottery Director Tom Shaheen. For once, he wasn’t the man in the hot seat at the legislature. Maybe Shaheen can get Pruette to come to all the meetings in the future and draw the fire of the watchdogs.
Are lottery funds being used to add to or replace eduction funds? Some notable members of the Lottery Oversight Committee want to know.