Van de Putte proposal puts policy in focus

08/15/2014 7:03 PM

08/15/2014 7:04 PM

During any election cycle, let alone one as vicious as this one has become, candidates tend to spend an enormous amount of time criticizing their opponents, usually by focusing on things only marginally related to holding office.

That’s politics.

But unfortunately, the time and resources wasted on politics often come at the expense of aspiring policymakers actually developing and selling substantive policy ideas — you know, the things that will matter when the election is over.

Which is why this week’s higher education policy proposal by State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor, was a welcome reprieve from the day-to-day politicking that has characterized the campaign thus far.

Speaking Thursday at the Tarrant County College Trinity River Campus, Van de Putte unveiled her plan to shift $2 billion from the state’s rainy day fund into an account that would provide scholarships for as many as an estimated 45,000 qualified Texas high school graduates to attend a public community college, technical college or a two-year state institution.

Van de Putte’s proposal is not a typical campaign promise, that she could chose to implement or ignore were she to be elected, either. Because the proposed Texas Promise Scholarship Program would require an amendment to the state constitution, it would in turn need voter approval before it could be put into motion.

Given that Election Day is less than 100 days away, it’s somewhat surprising that Van de Putte’s plan is the first main higher education policy proposal in the race for lieutenant governor.

It’s not surprising, however, that State Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, who bested Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in the party primary election earlier this year, responded to his opponent’s plan with the expected political rhetoric.

We’re still waiting for his policy response, though.

The merit and viability of Van de Putte’s plan will be determined by voters soon enough. But it’s nice to see some substance out there.

Statewide campaigns should accelerate their schedules next month as they close in on Nov. 4. And hopefully, some fresh ideas will accompany the politics.

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