Who are they?quot; 08/30/2005 News-Herald Editorial The big sigh of relief heard last week in the southeastern United States came from lottery outlets located in states bordering North Carolina. Follo

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 30, 2005

News-Herald Editorial

The big sigh of relief heard last week in the southeastern United States came from lottery outlets located in states bordering North Carolina.

Following months of deliberation, the North Carolina Senate narrowly defeated a measure last Wednesday that would have brought a lottery to the Tar Heel State.

For now, the cries of those favoring the lottery will be "wail ‘til next year."

Meanwhile, lottery outlets in Virginia, South Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia that border the Tar Heel State are popping the champagne corks in celebration. Those outlets are among the highest-selling lottery locations in their respective states. It should come as no big surprise that the majority of their sales come from North Carolina citizens.

Lottery opponents never placed a lot of stock in the fact that Tar Heels spend hundreds of millions every year in the education lotteries of surrounding states. Rather, they saw the proposal as a bait-and-switch tactic n buy a chance on striking it rich and improve elementary education in the state. Opponents said a lottery was a recessive tax, an avenue state government could take to funnel much-needed dollars into education instead of exploring and finding other funds to do the same job.

Those opposing the lottery rallied behind a cry of detrimental social ills linked to gambling. They say a lottery is a tax against the poor. They say the expected $300 million in annual revenue the lottery was projected to generate is nothing more than a myth. They say lotteries are not stable sources of revenue.

But who are "they." If indicative of the so-called "Lottery Five" n a defiant group of five Democrats who voted with the 21 Republicans in the State Senate to defeat the measure n "they" are those hailing from areas that are not forced to operate their local governments on shoestring budgets.

Although "they" say they're only looking out for our best interest, it's "they" who made sure a proposed $15 million in Medicaid relief for financially strapped counties, such as those found in the Roanoke-Chowan area, did not pass during a recent legislative session in Raleigh.

We need some help, but yet "they" continue to fail when it comes to meeting, or even addressing, our needs.

While "they" stick out their collective chests and say "they" saved us from a life of gambling addiction, Medicaid costs have skyrocketed past $2 million annually in three of our four local counties. The burden of paying those mandated costs has robbed local government from being able to meet the growing needs of other county-controlled services, particularly education.

Meanwhile, the test scores of our schoolchildren continue to lag behind the rest of the state and nation. Those children, at least those who choose to remain here following graduation, represent our future. Without help, right now, to offer our children the same quality education with the same quality teachers found in the more populated areas of our state, then the future we leave in their care perhaps isn't one they necessarily want to inherit.

This newspaper does not condone gambling through a lottery. But yet we, as a poor region, know how to gamble. We take a chance every day that our elected leaders in Raleigh will do the right thing to benefit all of North Carolina and not just a selected few.

To date, we're still waiting while our schoolchildren suffer.

If "they" truly want to help, ease our Medicaid burden and we'll invest in local education without the help of a lottery.