Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Bill Halter offered new details on his proposal to expand college scholarship opportunities for Arkansas students and he said he has no plans to shift out of the Governor’s race in 2014.
Appearing on Capitol View on KARK Ch. 4, Halter first addressed the flap over his use of the phrase for his scholarship plan, “The Arkansas Promise,” which officials at Arkansas State University say they have coined the rights to use. Halter said talks between his campaign and ASU will eventually find a compromise.
“I’m confident that it’ll get worked out. What’s far more important is the proposal,” he said.
The proposal would establish a college scholarship program to provide full tuition for any Arkansas student who maintains a 2.5 grade point average and attends college in state. The scholarship match would equal tuition costs at the highest four-year public university in Arkansas. Halter contends that more college graduates will eventually lead to higher state incomes and more job opportunities in Arkansas.
Halter, who defended the costs of the program as a matter of budget priorities, said growth revenue from the state and a combination of consolidation of other scholarship funds could generate the money necessary to support the program, which he has estimated as needing $50-$75 million beyond existing funds.
He pointed out that the recently concluded legislature just cut more than $140 million in taxes. Halter also said the Arkansas Promise scholarship plan could be phased in over a period of time like Gov. Mike Beebe’s grocery tax cut.
“You could absolutely phase this in over several years. That’s one approach you could take,” Halter said.
He stressed that something has to be done to alleviate the hardship of the cost of college as state support has declined and tuition costs have risen.
“We’ve gotten to a point where this is unsustainable for families, for middle-class families and this is a proposal to help,” Halter said.
The former Lt. Governor, who backed into that race after first challenging Beebe for Governor in 2006, said he had no plans to shift his focus to another race in 2014. Halter’s name has floated as a potential rival to Cong. Tim Griffin (R ) in Arkansas’ Second District seat.
When asked, “Are you in the Governor’s race for good?”, Halter responded:
“I am in the Governor’s race and I will tell you that I consider it flattering that my opponent and his team are out there pushing me as being talented enough for Congress. But no, I’m running for Governor. I sought the endorsement of folks for Governor and I have the endorsement of folks for Governor. We’re raising money to run for Governor.”
You can watch his full interview below.