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Lottery suckage, the Blogfather on Google and energy incentives

by Kirk Ross

Hey guess what? Our lottery sucks and isn’t bringing in nearly what’s been promised all these years. Lottery officials promised to make it not suck soon by – I’m not making this up – holding a raffle.

This angers me not because it seems kinda amateur for a highly paid professional gambling outfit to hold a raffle, but because I had the idea years ago.

Instead of a lottery just hold a state raffle, a once a year thing, to raise money for something really cool like, say, Chimney Rock Park, or a couple of sound-class ferries. Every state employee would get a few tickets to sell, with prizes to those who sold the most. The governor could go on TV, stand next to a big cardboard thermometer and coax the citizenry: “C’mon folks we need those new tires for the buses.”

The Grand Prize, which we’d all win, would be residing in a state where the lottery doesn’t suck.

Google eyed

You might think that the rest of the country is looking askance at all the bristling over Google’s incentives package for its new server farm in Lenoir, but as Ed Cone recently pointed out on his blog (edcone.com) and his Sunday News & Record column, the way the company twisted arms among legislators runs a little counter to its whole “don’t be evil” creed.

Details of the deal continue to emerge and fascinate, including the use of a non-profit set up by Caldwell County and funded by company cash to buy up the land with Lenior Mayor David Barlow and other officials personally making the rounds to homeowners to get them to sell.

And as the deal begins to look bigger than originally estimated, Senate Pro Tem Marc Basnight with his roomie and finance chair Sen. David Hoyle say they’ll take a hard look at incentives including some kind of cost-benefit analysis of recent incentive deals. While, as Hoyle said recently, a lot of these deals have been hold-your-nose-and-vote moments, there have to be some boundaries. In addition to the tax and infrastructure package, for instance, the deal also included no sales tax on electricity and no sales tax on goods bought in North Carolina. Nice.

More juice

Speaking of electricity, Duke Energy is looking for help from the South Carolina legislature to get customers to pay up front for new power plants. The company is also reported to have similar plans to ask the same of the NC General Assembly. This while the company is looking for a partner for its proposed expansion at Cliffside coal-fired plant in Cleveland County and still has hopes of a nuclear plant – and a big fat federal payout – down the road.

Mr. Dynamite

Some of the more exciting bills to come out of the Senate tend to have the name Tony Rand atop them and this session the Cumberland County Majority Leader has started off with one that is sure to rile at least a dozen or so local governments across the state.

First, a pop quiz: What do Chapel Hill-Carrboro, Hickory, Clinton, Asheville, Thomasville and Whiteville have in common?

If you guessed that they’re among the 17 city school districts in the state you’re right. If you also guessed that Sen. Rand’s new bill entitled “Fund Only One School System Per County” has their school boards on edge you’re also right.

The bill, which applies to how state money is distributed, exempts Nash-Rocky Mount schools and Edgecomb, Cleveland and Gaston counties. As for the rest of them, my advice is to buckle up.

Kirk Ross travels the state for CapeFearMercury.com and writes about state governance at ExileOnJonesStreet.com. He can be reached at editor@capefearmercury.com.

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