Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Burr-Marshall Senate race looks competitive

A new poll from the conservative Civitas Institute shows U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, a Republican, leading Democrat Elaine Marshall 44 percent to 37 percent. That's within the margin of error, barely, of plus or minus 4 percentage points. Fifteen percent of the 600 registered voters polled July 19-21 were undecided. It was conducted by Republican pollster Tel Opinion Research.

It's the third recent poll that suggests Marshall may be in striking distance. Burr led Marshall by just five points in a poll by Democratic pollster Public Policy Polling earlier this month, and he trailed by two points in a poll commissioned by the Marshall campaign.

Polls in July don't mean much, and they suggest that Burr is probably slightly ahead. But as a 16-year member of Congress running against a low-profile challenger in a year shaping up to be Republican friendly, Burr should perhaps be concerned that this race is at all competitive.

UPDATE: An alert reader shares with us a Rasmussen poll we had not seen that shows a more comfortable lead for Burr. Burr has a 52-37 lead in that poll of 500 likely voters. It was conducted July 6 and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

-- Posted by The Observer editorial board

Friday, July 16, 2010

Gamers play one more hand with Perdue

The video sweepstakes guys aren't giving up. Despite the N.C. General Assembly's overwhelming vote to ban the internet sweepstakes games, they took their cause to Gov. Bev Perdue today - in a hand-delivered letter.

In the letter, they asked Gov. Bev to veto the bill that would ban gaming, saying it would put 10,000 workers statewide out of jobs. They say Perdue should “send the issue back to the General Assembly to review next year legislation that would regulate and tax video gaming.”

The letter, signed by Entertainment Group NC President William Thevaos, says the ban “has the potential to add an additional burden of more than $2 million per week in new unemployment benefits that these citizens will need if this law goes into effect.” It also said that at a time of financial crisis in state government, walking away from potential revenue that doesn’t involve a tax hike is unwise. “Next year’s budget projections are even worse than this year. According to published news reports, the state is eyeing a $3 billion deficit or even more,” states the letter.
“A regulated video gaming industry could provide more than $576 million in new revenue to the state without raising taxes,” says the letter, citing data from the NC Education Lottery released in May.

Don't expect the plea to do much good. These are the same arguments the gamers made before and during the legislative session. They didn't sway Perdue then, and the governor's press secretary said Wednesday she is expected to sign the law.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Lawmakers' lottery shuffle hurt counties

Counties are still sorting out the fallout from the shifting around of N.C. education lottery funds state lawmakers did this legislative session to help save teachers' jobs statewide. But some have already calculated the damage.

Johnston County Manager Rick Hester told WRAL-TV Wednesday that his county will lose almost $2.3 million in capital expenses for its school construction needs. "I think frustrating and disappointment would be the best words (to describe our situation)," he said. The county has invested about $350 million to build, renovate and expand school buildings over the past decade. Bonds paid for the building. "We have to make $33 million worth of (bond) payments this fiscal year, no matter what happens," he said.

Mecklenburg County may be in the same boat. It's education lottery funds are also used for bond indebtedness on school construction. When lawmakers designated education lottery funds that counties used for school construction needs for teacher jobs instead, they were hurting instead of helping some school districts and counties. Mecklenburg County commissioners are discussing cutting the local money they've allocated to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools by the amount the state has taken for teacher jobs. That could be as much as $9 million.

Some counties aren't hit as hard. Wake County, for example, loses only $101,835 because of the lottery funds shift. Meanwhile, Cumberland County loses $3.6 million, Durham County loses $2.2 million and Orange County loses $1.3 million.
Many counties will likely have to postpone school construction projects or find other cuts so they can make their bond payments.
Johnston County officials said they aren't sure how they will balance their budget, but they don't anticipate job losses or tax increases.
"We did not think that on July 14 we'd already be in the process of trying to figure out how to recoup $2 million somewhere," Hester said.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

N.C. opposition to offshore drilling gushes up

You don't see public opinion swing like this every day. North Carolinians overwhelmingly favored offshore drilling just three short months ago. Now more oppose it than favor it. Hundreds of millions of gallons of oil in the Gulf can do that.
In April, before the spill, 26 percent of N.C. poll respondents opposed drilling off the N.C. coast, Public Policy Polling in Raleigh said today. In May, after the spill, 38 percent opposed it. In June, 39 percent and in the latest poll, 46 percent. That's a near doubling of opposition in three months.
Forty-two percent still support it, down from more than 60 percent in April.
The scariest fact from Public Policy Polling as far as we're concerned: Asked about Republican congressional candidate Bill Randall's theory that the federal government caused the spill on purpose, 11 percent believe that and 15 percent aren't sure. More than a quarter of North Carolinians are that delusional? Yikes.

-- Posted by The Observer's Editorial Board