Claire McCaskill unveils economic plan

Sunday, May 23, 2004

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Democratic gubernatorial candidate Claire McCaskill rolled out her economic development plan Saturday, calling for improving Missouri's roads, more money for schools at all levels and improved accountability in state government.

Standing behind a sign that read "Turn Missouri Around," McCaskill said the state needs to spend more on elementary through college level education, increase financial assistance for college students and provide incentives for school districts to cut administrative costs.

"We cannot succeed in economic development if we are pricing our kids out of a college education," she said.

McCaskill is challenging incumbent Gov. Bob Holden in the Democratic primary. Secretary of State Matt Blunt is the leading Republican candidate for governor.

McCaskill also said that, if elected governor, she would push for a $250 million bonding plan to improve Missouri's roads, which are consistently rated among the worst in the country.

She said the best way to create jobs and ensure a sound economy is to commit to fixing the state's roads.

She also called for expanding a tax credit program that provides job training through community colleges, and for more regional efforts to lure life sciences and other high-tech industries to the state.

She said she would no longer allow state contractors to send jobs overseas. A private contractor that handles questions about Medicaid for the state has moved its call center to India, angering some legislators and others.

McCaskill also proposed creating an office to work on issues important to rural Missouri, increase funding for ethanol production and spend more money marketing Missouri's agricultural products.

Holden campaign spokesman Caleb Weaver said McCaskill's big issues don't vary much from the governor's.

"It sounds like she's aiming for a lot of the same priorities the governor has had the last three years," Weaver said. "It's a shame instead of helping the governor get these priorities implemented, she sat on the sidelines and is now coming out and making it a political issue."

Blunt spokesman John Hancock also noticed a similarity, and dismissed McCaskill's proposals.

"Claire McCaskill's prescriptions and Bob Holden's failures are one and the same," he said.

Last month, Blunt outlined his economic development plan, focusing on many pro-business changes in state law that Holden has vetoed or opposed. Blunt urged more stringent restrictions on lawsuits, compensation of injured workers and payment of unemployment benefits.

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