Editorial: Do as we say, not as ...

  • Posted: Tuesday, March 12, 2013 8:25 p.m.

Before Republicans took control in Raleigh, they could reliably be expected to lambast the lottery and condemn the use of state incentives to entice corporations to North Carolina.

So now that they hold the reins, are things likely to go in a different direction? Not so much, judging from two recent actions.

Rather than doing something really bold, like mounting a serious lottery repeal effort — similar to attempts to scuttle the new health-care law — Republicans appear content to simply tinker at the margins. A bill currently under debate would restrict lottery advertising or sponsorships with universities and would require more disclosure regarding the jackpot odds.

Those are good ideas — but they’re a far cry from repeal of a state-sponsored gambling enterprise that most Republicans (and many Democrats) have roundly and rightly condemned. For instance, Rep. Paul Stam, R-Wake (sponsor of the current bill) has labeled the lottery a “scam.” Besides leaving the lottery intact, legislators appear unlikely to address another perennial complaint — that “education” lottery proceeds ($457 million last year) are too often diverted to backfill budget holes rather than exclusively supporting schools.

As for incentives, insurance giant MetLife hit the jackpot. In exchange for bringing roughly 2,600 jobs to the state, MetLife has been promised upwards of $90 million in state incentives. As you may recall, this is comparable to the incentives package reportedly being prepared for Continental Tire to set up shop in North Carolina under the Perdue administration before that deal fell through amid GOP allegations of political cronyism and a “pay to play” culture. And just as Republicans cast suspicions of gubernatorial involvement in that aborted project, the MetLife deal is raising questions because it was negotiated by Gov. Pat McCrory’s previous employer, the Moore & Van Allen law firm. McCrory has denied any involvement in the MetLife negotiations. He and Republican leaders also downplay the incentives aspect, but they do want credit for the jobs.

So does this mean Republican leaders are being hypocritical in espousing principles they’re now apparently willing to compromise?

Not really. It just shows what happens when political orthodoxy collides with economic reality. Politicians are often against things before they’re for them, especially when it comes to business investment and balancing the budget. The state needs those 2,600 MetLife jobs, just like legislators need those lottery dollars.

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