A group of Scotland County commissioners asked legislators to fully restore lottery funding for school capital in the state budget during a recent visit to Raleigh.
The commissioners personally met with Rep. Garland Pierce and Ken Goodman and Sen. Gene McLaurin to advocate for full restoration of school capital funds.
“I enjoyed sitting down with our legislators and I thought that they were very receptive to the things that we had decided were priority items,” said Commissioner Whit Gibson, who was joined by commissioners Carol McCall, Bob Davis and Guy McCook on the visit.
Because of the Republican majority in both houses of the General Assembly, Gibson said that the legislators did seem resigned to the fact that they might not be able to accomplish a restoration of lottery funding in the short term.
“They felt like they were a little bit powerless as far as being able to get done some of the things we were trying to promote, with the lottery funds being a good example. The legislators felt like the folks in power had made up their minds,” Gibson said.
In agreement with Gibson, Davis reported that the visit with the legislators went well, but that there was some concern about their ability to restore lottery funds to schools.
“They were receptive to what we had to say, but the lottery funds, I don’t hold out a lot of hope for that,” Davis said.
When the state lottery was originally established, counties received 40 percent of lottery proceeds earmarked specifically for school capital projects. Scotland County received a little more than $700,000.
Two years ago, the General Assembly reduced the 40 percent designated to counties to 22 percent. That meant Scotland County received about $400,000, an estimated $300,000 less than it received previously.
This year, lawmakers are considering returning all lottery funds to the General Fund and making appropriations to counties for school capital.
Gibson said that the legislators informed the commissioners that they were working to build relationships across the aisle so that in future sessions more may be accomplished.
“It’s a process and I think that our legislators are predictably trying to develop a relationship with legislators of the other party, but as it is, it will be hard to get something done. But if the lineup changes then those relationships they’ve build will make a difference later,” Gibson said.
Joining the commissioners were County Manager Kevin Patterson, Finance Officer Charles Nichols, Tax Administrator Mary Helen Norton and Economic Development Director Greg Icard.
The Commissioners also asked the three lawmakers to protect funding for the Rural Center and GoldenLEAF, which provide grants to rural counties to support economic development and promote job growth.
There was one project of concern to Scotland County that the legislators seemed optimistic about, Davis said.
“One thing we talked about was meeting with the (Department of Transportation) to get more funding for a road into the new FCC plant out by the Small Business Innovation Center. The legislators felt like we had a good shot at getting what we asked for there,” Davis said.
The road would connect to FCC’s new paper processing plant off US 401 in Laurinburg. The plant, which is scheduled to be opened by March of 2014, will create at least 66 new jobs. Ground was broken at the site earlier this month.
The advocacy was in conjunction with the annual County Assembly Day. County Assembly Day is an opportunity for North Carolina county officials to meet with and hear from state legislative leaders and meet with their state legislative representatives.