Governor candidates square off at centennial

The School of Journalism's centennial gave gubernatorial candidates a chance to argue the issues before a panel of local media representatives and an auditorium of students and alumni.

The debate featured Democratic Attorney General Jay Nixon, Republican U.S. Rep. Kenny Hulshof, Libertarian candidate Andrew Finkenstadt and Constitution Party candidate Gregory Thompson.

Chad Day of the Columbia Missourian, Juana Summers of KBIA/91.3 FM and Jennifer Kovaleski of KOMU sat on the panel led by Terry Ganey of the Missouri Press Association.

Summers is a former member of The Maneater staff.

In remembrance of Sept. 11, Barack Obama and John McCain, the Democratic and Republican presidential nominees, asked politicians to follow their example and refrain from attacking their opponents. At the debate, the candidates avoided attacking each other and mostly discussed their own positions on the issues.

As part of his opening statements, Nixon asked his opponents to remember Sept. 11.

"Today we should put partisan politics aside," Nixon said.

Day asked the candidates how they would combat rising tuition costs.

Nixon said "middle-class families are being squeezed" and that the state should increase higher education funding.

In April, Nixon proposed the Missouri Promise Plan, which would make the A+ Schools Program available for use at any four-year institution in the state.

Hulshof said the A+ program pushes students toward community colleges. His higher education plan would increase the state's investment in higher education to the rate of inflation plus 2 percent. He would set up an endowment intended to attract researchers to Missouri. He also said he supports need-based scholarships for students.

Thompson said the government "can't keep asking people for more money" to pay for higher education.

"Higher education needs to come from the families," Thompson said.

Finkenstadt said the government should reduce taxes in order to give taxpayers more freedom in how they spent their money.

"You need to spend your money how you see fit without the middle man," Finkenstadt said.

The candidates were also asked about a wide range of other issues.

Hulshof said he is pushing for reforms on crime and public safety and ethical, non-controversial research for life-saving cures.

Nixon said he wants to restore health care cuts and "make sure every child in Missouri gets a quality education."

Finkenstadt, a computer software engineer, said he is opposed to government censorship in any form and also said he supports a smaller government.

Thompson said he would like to see more religious doctrine in public life.

"We need to protect property rights," Thompson said. "We have rights because of God, not because of man."

Ganey asked the candidates what they would do for a family that had to declare bankruptcy after experiencing Medicaid cuts.

Hulshof discussed his health care initiative, Healthy Missouri Access Exchange, or HealthMAX.

Under the plan, the state would pay health insurance premiums for participants and subsidize health savings accounts. Participants would have to share in the costs for up to 5 percent of their income. The plan would provide tax incentives for companies to get their health care through HealthMAX, and any Missouri resident would be eligible for coverage, regardless of employment status.

Nixon has proposed restoring the Medicaid cuts made by Gov. Matt Blunt in 2005.

"It is morally wrong to live in a state where children don't have health care," Nixon said.

Finkenstadt said the government should not regulate health care, and private citizens should provide direct financial assistance to those who need health care.

Thompson said he is opposed to involvement by the federal government in Missouri's health care programs, adding that the free market would take care of health care in Missouri.

In response to a question about the death penalty, both Nixon and Hulshof said they support keeping the death penalty in Missouri.

Finkenstadt said he is opposed to capital punishment and Thompson said it costs too much compared with life in prison.

Regarding K-12 education, Hulshof said he wants to increase funding each year and proposed to hire 1,500 new math and science teachers for every school district.

Nixon said the senior year of high school should be reinvented so students can get a semester of AP credit. He also said he opposes vouchers.

Thompson advocated instilling more religion in public schools while Finkenstadt said schools should have more parental involvement.

Regarding energy policy, Nixon said the state needs a broad-based energy policy that protects consumers. He announced this week that he supports the expansion of oil drilling.

Hulshof said he supports deep sea drilling and the initiative in Congress to look for oil in Alaska.

Thompson said he supports drilling in Vernon County and Finkenstadt stressed that the energy policy needs to rely on the free market.

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