State Politics

Lottery: Don't stuff kids' stockings with tickets

The state lottery encourages giving scratch-off tickets as stocking stuffers -- but not for children.

In North Carolina, lottery players must be 18. The state lottery issued a news release Wednesday urging parents to fill their kids' stockings with something other than a shot at a jackpot.

"It's important to be aware of the potential risks associated with lottery-related gifts to minors. These gifts, while well-intentioned, should not be given to kids," said Tom Shaheen, the state lottery executive director. "We only want lottery tickets going to people who are old enough to play legally."

The lottery has a series of holiday-themed tickets. The $1 "Double Holiday Cash" ticket, which features a top prize of $500, includes "To" and "From" blanks to make gift-giving easier. For the record, the odds of winning the top prize are 1 in 14,836.

States weigh distance tax

North Carolina is not alone in considering an odometer tax.

Arturo Perez, a fiscal analyst with the National Conference of State Legislatures, said a number of states are considering a so-called Vehicle Miles Traveled tax to pay for road improvements.

"There is a sense among many states that there needs to be an alternative to the traditional forms of financing transportation," he said.

Perez said the gas tax has not kept pace with inflation in the costs of road-building materials.

Even when the tax is raised, it's not enough, he said. According to a 2006 report by the conference, 14 states had raised their gas tax rates since 1997, but only three raised them enough to keep pace with inflation.

Governor: Pass stimulus

Gov. Mike Easley is urging the state's congressional delegation to pass a stimulus plan.

In a letter to North Carolina's 13 U.S. representatives and two senators, Easley said they should complete and pass a package as soon as possible.

"Congress cannot wait until next year to deal with a national crisis that continues to worsen," he wrote.

Easley also notes in the letter that the national economy lost half a million jobs last month, while North Carolina is beginning to see the job losses in big numbers.

He says that the state is "ready to go" on more than $5 billion worth of transportation projects alone.

Easleys serve inmates

Easley turned the tables -- or at least who was sitting at them -- Monday night.

Easley, first lady Mary Easley and their son, Michael, served dinner to the 30 or so inmates who work at the Executive Mansion tending the garden, cleaning or serving on the kitchen staff.

Former inmates who previously worked at the mansion also were welcomed back as alumni.

"It's a chance for us to say thanks to them," said Easley, who leaves office next month after eight years.

And how did he do as a waiter?

"I'm best on [serving] the tea," he said. "The ice cream slides off the cake when I serve dessert."

Deacons go bowling

Fans going to the nation's capital this weekend for the Wake Forest University football game have a prominent alumnus helping with arrangements. U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, who played defensive back for Wake Forest in the 1970s, is arranging tours of the U.S. Capitol for fans.

So far, more than 200 people have signed up for tours on Thursday and Friday.

The Demon Deacons play Navy on Saturday in the EagleBank Bowl.