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Democratic governor candidate pushes ‘Arkansas Promise’

story by Roby Brock, with Talk Business
roby@talkbusiness.net

Bill Halter, the only declared Democratic candidate for Arkansas Governor, previewed his first major policy plan of the 2014 campaign on Talk Business Arkansas Sunday night.

Halter will advocate for “The Arkansas Promise,” a college scholarship program that will 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.

“If you graduate from an Arkansas high school with a 2.5 GPA, we will provide the resources so that you can go to college tuition-free,” he said.

Halter, who successfully led the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery’s passage and implementation, says he modeled the statewide program after the El Dorado and Arkadelphia Promise scholarship plans.

To pay for the Arkansas Promise, Halter said it would be funded by lottery scholarship revenues, federal grant aid, philanthropic contributions, and additional Arkansas scholarship funds. He estimated it would require $50 million to $75 million beyond existing funding sources, but he said no tax increases would be proposed.

“Let me be clear about that. We are not proposing to raise taxes to fund this program, and in fact, we won’t be raising taxes to do this. Period. Full stop. End of story. We’re taking that issue off the table,” said Halter, who claimed that current tax cut proposals – including the Governor’s grocery tax reduction and other measures – could cost more than twice what is needed to fund the scholarship program he’s proposing.

Halter, former Lt. Governor and unsuccessful 2010 U.S. Senate challenger, also discussed a number of issues and topics related to his candidacy in his first major television interview since announcing he’d seek the Governor’s office in late January.

He said that despite his support for a statewide ethics reform initiative that would prohibit corporate or union contributions to campaigns, he will accept those contributions in his gubernatorial run.

Halter also said he would have vetoed the two abortion restriction bills that have passed the Arkansas legislature and were vetoed by Gov. Mike Beebe. Halter said he believes both measures were unconstitutional.

The 2014 race for governor has already proven tumultuous. The two leading candidates on the Democratic side have already dropped.

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel told supporters on Jan. 25 that he was out of the race. Former U.S. Rep. Mike Ross, D-Prescott, announced in 2012 he would take a private sector job instead of make a run for governor. However, it is rumored that Ross is being heavily lobbied to run for the office now that McDaniel dropped out.

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The announced GOP gubernatorial candidates are Curtis Coleman and Asa Hutchinson,

Link here for the video interview with Halter.

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