Kentucky Governor Cares So Much About Coal Country That He Wants to Make Sure Kids Never Leave There

Coal isn't coming back. Ever. It's a dwindling industry that is going the way of the telegraph and tall bicycles. You can lie and say that you're gonna bring it back. You can even try to do stupid shit like put a tariff on solar panels, but coal is dying. What we should be doing is working to bring industry to coal country that gives people jobs. Hell, howzabout making West Virginia or Eastern Kentucky a center of manufacturing for the solar or wind energy industry in this country? Howzabout a shit-ton of tax breaks and federal money for that?

Of course, the other thing you can do is make it so that the kids from coal country get a decent education so they can either make the place better or have lives that aren't tied to the nearly-extinct mines. And the previous governor, Democrat Steve Beshear, and a previous state legislature, led in part by Democrat Greg Stumbo, started a scholarship program to help college students in Eastern Kentucky finish their degrees. Called the Kentucky Coal County College Completion Scholarship, it was funded by the state initially at $1 million before expanding to more counties and growing to $4 million in scholarships that went to many colleges in coal country.

It initially passed in 2014 by a nearly unanimous Democratic-led House and a unanimous Republican-led Senate. Its expansion to more counties, including some in Central Kentucky, was supported just as strongly. The program did exactly what it was supposed to. Targeting students in their junior and senior years at Kentucky schools, it gave up to a $7800 scholarship to students who came from the very communities that the supposed coal-country lovers profess to care about. Recipients called it a "blessing" that makes a college degree "attainable" for those who might not have been able to go to college. Last year, 690 students benefited from the scholarship.

Of course, something was bound to fuck it up, and that is the fact that the coal industry is a dinosaur that doesn't understand that it's long past time to be extinct. See, the program is funded by a coal severance tax, which is based on the value of coal that is processed in the state. And because coal is fucked, the amount of that tax being collected is falling as the amount of coal mined in Kentucky falls. "Revenue from the tax dropped from $310 million in 2011 to $100.5 million in the fiscal year that ended June 30," so, yeah, coal's fucked.

So asshole Republican Governor Matt Bevin, who seems to be doing everything he can to dick over the poor in his state (although, to be fair, the poor did a pretty good job of self-dicking by voting for Bevin), has proposed eliminating the scholarship program in his latest budget. Obviously, when the jobs are drying up, you want to make sure that the poorest areas of your state remain mired in horrific poverty.

Kentucky has one of the lowest rates of college degree attainment. It's 47th (West Virginia is 50th because, yeah, coal). Republicans will just pretend that the "good" jobs that disappeared a long damn time ago are going to come back, instead of admitting that history and technology are making coal into just black rocks that should stay in the damn ground. And let's be honest here: those jobs have always been shitty and dangerous and underpaid.

If Bevin gets his way, a whole lot of young adults will be forced to give up college or go into the debt spiral that higher education entails, the future be damned in favor of an illusion of bringing back a fake past.