Remember Bill Halter, the guy those of us here in Arkansas and many of you in the netroots drafted to run against Blanche Lincoln back in '10? Well, he may have fallen just short in that valient effort, but he's now back and running a great campaign for Arkansas governor. What's more, he's kicking off his campaign with a really bold progressive proposal-paying for college for every high school student in Arkansas with a 2.5 gpa. Not "making college affordable"-paying for college.
Now, before I go any further, yes, I'm going to put an actblue link in this diary. Like this one. And sure, it's a state election rather than a big race for the U.S. Senate or something, but there's a reason you should still care. We've seen from Republicans around the country in recent years that ideas spread. Now there's a lot of talk here on dailykos and elsewhere about progressive state governance. This is an idea that has a lot of strength and a lot of potential for replication in other states. And really, if Bill can get something like this done in Arkansas, how soon do you think other states that aren't nearly as conservative as ours are going to be running with it???
So follow me below the orange squiggle to learn more about the plan, and make sure you chip in some cash to Bill on ActBlueif you've got a little to spare.
Click here for the campaign video. (Couldn't get it to work.)
Right now, I'm struggling to pay off my college loans. Lots of people across the country are in the same boat, and it's a problem that's only getting worse. But what if you didn't have to borrow money or worry about how you will pay for college so long as you were willing to do the work to succeed? That's where Bill's plan comes in.
College education is Bill's baby, his passion. That's the reason he worked on his signature achievement-the lottery scholarship. (He has done a lot more though-the public health clinic in Little Rock, championing ethics and campaign finance reform, campaigning to protect Social Security, etc.) A little context for those that don't like lotteries-in Arkansas, it is nearly impossible to increase any tax but the sales tax. It takes 75 votes in the legislature to raise the income tax, just 51 for the regressive sales tax. At the time, every state surrounding Arkansas had a lottery and we were losing a lot of money that could have been going to help a lot of kids here in the state. The idea was very popular but no one wanted to take on the religious right and their chief allies, out of state gambling interests. Bill did and won, and now there are a lot of good kids who have reaped the rewards. Sure, a lottery may not be the best deal, but it was the only feasable way we were going to expand access to college in Arkansas.
This plan builds on that success and you can read the details here.
In a nut shell, Bill's plan, The Arkansas Promise, works as follows:
Simply stated, if you go to high school in Arkansas, qualify for a lottery scholarship, maintain a 2.5 GPA and plan to attend college in the state, we promise to pay your college tuition. The overall scholarship level would be set at the tuition level of the highest cost four-year public university in Arkansas. And we will pay for this investment without raising taxes, by combining the Lottery Scholarship, federal grant aid, philanthropic support, and additional Arkansas scholarship funds. In order to keep the implementation simple, the eligibility requirements will mirror those of the Lottery Scholarship.And when it comes to the numbers:
The Arkansas Promise will cost the state approximately $50 to $75 million per year when fully phased-in. As major initiatives go, this is a minor expense compared to the benefits it will create for our state. Just to give you an idea of the size of investment we’re talking about, state general fund spending is nearly $5 billion (total state funding is even higher), so this program represents roughly one percent of spending.Again, this is an idea that could spread. We've seen Right to Work, opposition to the Affordable Care Act, abortion bills, gun bills, and birther nonsense spread like wildfire from one state to the next as Republican governors and legislators ginned them out one after another. Isn't it high time that progressive ideas, like making a college education available to everyone who will work for it, started doing the same? If you want to make that happen, help Bill out on ActBlue.
As a candidate for Governor in 2006, Governor Mike Beebe promised to eliminate the sales tax on groceries. He has been able to reduce the tax over time to 1.5 percent. The total cost of this change in state revenue has been approximately $120 million a year – roughly double the cost of funding the Arkansas Promise. Gov. Beebe has been able to pay for this through normal revenue growth. We can do the same with the Arkansas Promise.