Springfield News-Leader - Hulshof, Nixon Spar On Issues, History In Debate
Gubernatorial candidates Jay Nixon and Kenny Hulshof sparred over spending records and fiscal responsibility during their final televised public debate Friday night in Springfield.
Nixon, the Democratic attorney general, characterized a Hulshof administration as a continuation of unpopular "Washington policies" and offered himself as a man who would create a more efficient government and in turn fund the basic needs of health care, education opportunities and jobs.
Hulshof, 9th District congressman, characterized his opponent as steeped too long in Missouri grudges and politics, and promised a "fresh perspective" with 50 reforms to remake state government from top to bottom.
Often repeating the sentiment "people are hurting out there," the candidates alleged that each other's policies would perpetuate tired answers or undo any progress that had been made in Missouri.
The debate, aired on KYTV, was co-sponsored by the News-Leader, KYTV, KSMU and Ozarks Public Television.
Hulshof is reported by several Missouri polls to be trailing Nixon in the final weeks before the Nov. 4 election.
"You may hear I'm desperate," Hulshof said. "I'm simply desperate to move our state forward" with ideas to create more jobs and provide affordable health care, among other things.
In his opening statement, Nixon said Missouri is at a crossroads, with a 17-year high in unemployment and high job losses, and said he has laid out a path to invest in human resources and make sure the state provides jobs and education while living within its means.
On the question of job creation, Hulshof reiterated his Missouri Rebate Emergency Jobs Act, MORE jobs. He wants to give instant tax rebates to businesses that create jobs in 2009.
Nixon proposed a dual path to create more jobs by investing in education and job training, and making tuition more affordable, so the middle class can afford to send kids to college. His list of job-creation ideas includes turning idled automaking plants into factories making 45-mph vehicles.
The candidates sparred over whose spending proposals would break the bank -- Nixon's $326 million to restore Medicaid benefits to Missourians and tuition breaks for college-bound youths or Hulshof's proposed $729 million in new state spending. His plan for health care alone is projected to cost at least $508 million in state dollars.
In one rebuttal about budget issues, Nixon said "I'm getting a lecture from a congressman who voted for 11,000 earmarks during his time in Washington?"
Ask how they would fund health care, Hulshof said the old system of Medicaid "wasn't providing good quality of care for low-income Missourians, outcomes were worse and patients were four times more likely to show up in hospital ERs because they didn't have preventive health care and wellness coverage."
He put forth his HealthMax plan in which the state would help 134,000 Missourians pay premiums, provide tax incentives for another 60,000 and help small businesses afford coverage for their workers.
Nixon tied Hulshof to Gov. Matt Blunt's move to turn down federal money through Medicaid match and remove thousands of children and adults off Medicaid. Nixon wants to restore Medicaid benefits and feels he can help pay for more of it by tapping into those federal matching dollars.
In addition to answering questions from a panel of local reporters, the candidates were allowed to pose one question to each other.
Nixon asked Hulshof why he voted for 11,000 earmarks in Congress that included a Woodstock museum and the Maine Lobster Institute.
"I've never been able to vote for a perfect bill," Hulshof said, explaining that there were times he voted for bills because they included important benefits for Missourians.
Hulshof asked why the Missouri Foundation for Health, created with funds in a conversion of Blue Cross Blue Shield and meant to increase access to health care, had given grants to Planned Parenthood, ACORN and others.
Nixon did not address those groups directly, but said the foundation has added more than $1.7 billion to nonprofits and independent charities.
In other issues, both candidates agreed that Missouri needs a full range of alternative-energy options.
Hulshof said he opposed proposition B establishing standards for home health care workers, saying it would enable workers to unionize. Nixon denied that is the intent of the proposal, and said it would create standards and licensing of workers to ensure good care for the homebound.