Friday, September 07, 2001

Luken derides Fuller budget

Pair battle over spending plan

By Gregory Korte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Charlie Luken and Courtis Fuller won't debate on the radio until this morning, but they debated the cost of Mr. Fuller's proposals in dueling news releases Thursday.

        Mr. Luken called his opponent “the Billion Dollar Man” in a strongly worded statement that signaled he's taking the offensive in the 2001 mayoral campaign.

        “Courtis is clearly the Billion Dollar Man — the only way to fund all his proposals is to double your taxes,” said the Luken fax. “I'm afraid Courtis is trying to be all things to all people.”

        Mr. Fuller responded by e-mail, saying: “It's a shame Mr. Luken is already resorting to negative and inaccurate attacks instead of offering his own vision for dealing with the serious issues facing this city.”

        Here's how Mr. Luken arrived at his billion-dollar figure:

        • $750 million for regional light rail. That's a conservative number; planners have asked for $874.7 million for the Covington-to-Blue Ash line alone, and an entire system could cost $4 billion.

        Mr. Fuller's response: While he supports light rail, it's not part of his seven-point platform.

        • $250 million for free college tuition for Cincinnati Public School students. Mr. Luken figures it this way: The cost of a college education is $32,000 at Miami University, times 1,500 students, for six graduating classes, equals $288 million.

        However, in-state tuition at the University of Cincinnati starts at about $20,000 for four years, excluding fees and costs, and Mr. Fuller's program would apply only to those with a B average or better and near-perfect attendance.

        Mr. Fuller's response: The program will be funded primarily through private donations.

        • $30 million for Mr. Fuller's neighborhood program. Mr. Fuller had first proposed taking about $28 million from the bus system to pay for improvements to neighborhoods.

        He has since backed off that plan, but has not said where the additional money would come from.

        • $3 million for a campaign finance reform plan that would provide matching funds to city candidates. That plan would give up to $200,000 to mayoral candidates and $100,000 to City Council candidates if they agree to spending limits of $300,000 and $150,000. However, the exact amount would depend on the number of candidates and how much they raise by themselves.

        Mr. Fuller did not respond to that point.

        Mr. Fuller and Mr. Luken will likely continue the debate this morning. They're scheduled on the radio for the first time. The program starts at 10 a.m. on WDBZ (1230 AM).

        Cincinnati voters will go to the polls Tuesday in a nonpartisan mayoral primary. The top two candidates will go on to the Nov. 6 general election.


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