Gov. Mike Beebe is right. Starting a new lottery-backed scholarship program with existing surpluses in 2009, as Lt. Gov. Bill Halter proposes, isn’t prudent.
But Beebe’s feelings — as expressed here — that existing scholarship programs are a fine conduit for new lottery revenue, however much, isn’t so good. The programs are diffuse and complicated, so much so that the state can’t give all the money away. To expand college going, Arkansas needs to send more kids to college. Basically, the lottery should finance a generally available subsidy to any student with a high school record — above average — indicative of likely success in college. It shouldn’t be tailored to interests, geography or need. It has to be marketed. Halter is right in saying the existing system doesn’t work. Numbers show it.
In the matter of Beebe v. Halter at the legislature, of course, Beebe wins. But I’m not sure Beebe’s sentiments expressed here are universally held at the legislature. Sen. Terry Smith of Hot Springs, The Brotherhood’s lottery leader, seemed to say to me the other day that he favored the more universal approach described by Halter.