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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - The four Republicans at Thursday night's WOOD TV8 gubernatorialdebate said the way to create jobs and avert another Michiganbudget crisis is to cut spending.
But they offered different specific solutions.
Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox said he would cut the state'sbusiness tax "in half, on the way to eliminating it."
State Sen. Tom George, R-Kalamazoo, called the tax cut promises"fiscal fantasies," arguing Cox's plan doesn't include enoughspending cuts to balance the budget.
Pressed to respond after the debate, Cox pointed to cuts heoffered during it: cheaper health care for state employees,mandating savings in government contracts and eliminating thestate's Earned Income Tax Credit.
George, a practicing doctor, said the real spending problem isstate entitlement programs. They're broken, he said.
"You can't make the public healthy by giving them a governmentcard," the state senator said. Michigan needs to require more ofthe people receiving state benefits. Speaking to 24 Hour News 8after the debate, he used the example of the health screeningshappening now at private employers.
George repeatedly advocated for the passage of a constitutionalconvention, saying it is a necessary step in the effort to revampstate government.
Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard, a former state lawmakerand small business owner, touted his work history.
"I'm the only candidate who has the experience to know what todo on the first day," Bouchard said. The state could save money byprivatizing the non-educational functions schools undertake, hesaid. And the sheriff said he saved money in his county byprivatizing jail food, something he said the state could do at itsprisons.
Congressman Pete Hoekstra, R-Holland, said Michigan needs tolook at what neighboring states have done with corrections. Theyspend less per prisoner, he said.
Fewer levels of government would be better, Hoekstra said, andpublic sector benefits need to be more in line with private sectorones. To create jobs, the congressman said, government needs to getout of the way.
"Michigan's future doesn't begin with the next governor, itdoesn't begin in Lansing and it doesn't begin in Washington," hesaid.
None of the candidates expressed support for an Arizona-styleimmigration law. Cox, George and Hoekstra said the federalgovernment needs to fulfill its responsibility to act on the issue.Bouchard complained of a relative lack of agents on the country'snorthern border as opposed to its south, and after the debate, saidhe would support a state law giving local law enforcement theoption of arresting illegal immigrants.
And on the day when an effort to extend unemployment benefitsfailed in Washington, none of the candidates endorsed such anextension.
On education, the candidates talked about parent choice. Coxsaid the time has come to use an international standard to test thestate's students, rather than simply comparing scores from one partof the state with the other. After the debate, Hoekstra said he waswilling to reopen Proposal A, the current state school fundingformula.
On the Asian carp threat, Cox pointed to his own legal effortsto force federal action and George advocated amending theinternational Great Lakes Basin Compact to combat invasivespecies.
Bouchard said there were steps the state could take itself,including creating "dead zones" that would prevent fish frompassing through a given area and banning the possession of livecarp. Hoekstra said he did not expect significant federal action,saying he would develop a plan detailing the specific steps thestate would take if the carp were to enter Michigan waters.
Ann Arbor businessman Rick Snyder declined to participate inThursday's debate, citing too many requests and saying he prefers adifferent type of forum.
"We think there are plenty of opportunities for what I callsound bites and sound bite fireworks, because the preferred methodI have, Rick, in terms of looking at this, are these town halls,"Snyder told 24 Hour News 8. "No disrespect to debates, but they dotend be very quick answers and short subject matter, where an eventlike (a town hall), real people come and it's open to thepublic."
Earlier in the week, the Snyder campaign released a statementemphasizing his lack of interest in debates.
"While career politicians will be bickering at the debate, Rickwill have a meaningful conversation directly with Michiganders at atown hall," it said.
Snyder was at a town hall in Sterling Heights on Thursday.
Officers from multiple law enforcement agencies worked together Tuesday evening to chase down an alleged van thief, despite slippery roads.
A charity lodge where three people were killed back in September 2013 will likely never open again.
Kalamazoo Township Police are asking for your help in finding a 63-year-old man who told people back in November he was going off to die.