Governor candidates stress unemployment, education for economy

Like most races across the country, the candidates in this year’s gubernatorial race increasingly focused on the economy in the campaigns’ final weeks.

The candidates have proposed remedies for an unemployment rate that is expected to rise in the coming months, as well as varying methods of increasing college affordability and taxing Missourians.

To increase college affordability, Republican candidate Kenny Hulshof has proposed to increase state funding to need based scholarships, and has proposed the Missouri Prosperity Plan, which is a grant matching plan that would require businesses and philanthropic interests to match state funding for degree programs 2-to-1.

Democratic candidate Jay Nixon proposed the Missouri Promise, which would increase eligibility to the state’s A+ Schools Program for high school students. If students complete the program and attend a community college in Missouri for two years, they would be allowed to go to a two- or four-year university in the state tuition-free.

Hulshof said his plan would help hire 1,500 new math and science teachers, enhance distance learning opportunities and use pre-employment training to increase marketable job skills. He said he would bring new teachers to Missouri by providing a $2,000 to $4,000 subsidy to each teacher in the form of enhanced salary or student loan repayment.

Nixon has said that his higher education plan would bring jobs to the state and that he would make a commitment to technical and job-training programs to enhance Missouri’s workforce.

“The attorney general also supports the use of tax credits to encourage companies to create Missouri jobs,” Nixon campaign spokesman Oren Shur said.

Nixon has received endorsements from major labor unions in the state, including Missouri State United Auto Workers, whose political action committee reported a $50,000 contribution to Nixon’s campaign on Sunday, and the Missouri AFL-CIO.

Hulshof has received the support of business leaders in the state, as well as the Missouri Chamber of Commerce.

On taxes, Hulshof pledged to reject increases.

“Kenny is the only candidate who has committed to reject any tax increase that comes to his desk,” Hulshof campaign spokesman Scott Baker said.

If elected, Hulshof said he would conduct a comprehensive review of the state’s tax credit system and correct any areas necessary.

While Hulshof proposes to make sure tax dollars are being used for their intended purposes, his competition doubts his plan.

“The congressman has been recklessly spending the taxpayers dollars in Washington,” Shur said.

Hulshof has also proposed tax relief for seniors on a fixed income. He would freeze their property assessments so they couldn’t be hit with a big tax bill, Baker said.

Nixon said he wants to extend property tax credits to 65,000 Missouri seniors to help them stay in their homes.

“During these tough economic times, Attorney General Nixon knows we need to hold the line on taxes, and provide additional relief to Missourians who need it most,” Shur said.

Hulshof’s campaign said Nixon’s plans will cut taxes or benefit Missourians.

“Jay Nixon has voted for gas tax increases, income tax increases and business tax increases,” Baker said.

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