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Friday, March 5, 2010

Opportunity Scholarship: Funding State Programs on Charity Bad

One other thing on which I'll agree with the Governor: counting some hoped-for private donors as part of your budget cuts is wimpy Santa-Claus thinking. The Republicans in Pierre who crafted the budget plan finally floated yesterday include $2 million dollars in savings from "Potential other funding sources for South Dakota Opportunity Scholarship."

Come on, folks: if the Opportunity Scholarship is a good policy, then cowboy up and fund it. Say to your colleagues and constituents, "Look, it's worth investing tax dollars to try keeping sharp kids in state for college and to push all college-bound kids to try a little harder in class. It's a public good that benefits everyone, and we're going to find the public funds to pay for it... even if that means raising your taxes.

And if you think the Opportunity Scholarship is a waste of public dollars, then just say so, cut the program, and take the state's name off it.


  1. It isn't waste of public dollars to fund scholarships, so allow the actual public to fund them instead of leaving it up to government taxation. Ensuring an informed public isn't justification for using the government powers for sponsorship of employment opportunities. Once the scholarship fund is set up it should have been broken off from government control and tax funding and made a non-profit organization in its own right.
    It is insanity to say that because something benefits the public, their representatives magically are granted the authority tax and spend whatever they want to provide it. There is only the authority to spend granted by the state constitution, so where in it would scholarship funding be included?

  2. Words, Roger: "public dollars" are not charity donations. "Public dollars" are tax dollars, the revenue controlled by the public as a whole. I understand your government minimalism: what I'm saying is that if it's not worth funding from public dollars, the legislature shouldn't be involved, period. If the Legislature means what it's budget plan says, they should erase the Opportunity Scholarship statutes and let Denny Sanford and Kelby Krabbenhoft and whatever other magic donors are out there just pony up their cash on their own.

    Your constitutional fundamentalism is also another effort to avoid a practical policy discussion with theoretical abstractions. The Constitution charges the Legislature with providing a good education and promting the general welfare. It is not a exhaustive and exclusive checklist of every program government is authorized to do. You want to live in the state of nature? Go buy Ted Kaczynski's cabin, or move to the forest in northern Quebec.


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