Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Chandler, Owen aim to create 100,000 jobs

Will use combination of tax credits, worker training

By Charles Wolfe
The Associated Press

LEXINGTON - Ben Chandler and running mate Charlie Owen on Monday announced a goal of creating 100,000 jobs if Chandler is elected governor.

They said they would use a combination of tax credits for businesses and grants and loans for training workers. They also promised cost-cutting in state government, including a reduction of 1,000 state jobs per year, and a bit of governmental entrepreneurship - making state property available for use as cell-phone tower sites.

Chandler said drastic action is needed to make up for what he claims is a loss of 52,000 Kentucky jobs since President Bush took office. As he has been doing on a daily basis, Chandler lashed out at "the team in charge in Washington," which he said includes his Republican opponent, U.S. Rep. Ernie Fletcher.

Owen said Kentucky was "strangling" from a "Republican economy."

"Too many people are out of work, living in fear that a pink slip is around the corner," he said.

Chandler said Owen would be his point man for economic development. The two held a news conference outside the loading dock of a building in which IBM Corp. once tested products.

"Today the employees are gone, and the building stands empty," Chandler said.

Chandler's plan includes, among other things, a tax credit for businesses that pay to have research conducted by the state's universities, and a "back-to-school sales tax holiday" to benefit consumers and retailers.

The campaign estimated that the sales tax credit would cost about $7 million. No estimate for the research credit was available.

State Republican Chairman Ellen Williams said Chandler's plan was "hypocritical."

For weeks, Chandler has criticized Bush and Fletcher for federal tax cuts, "but now tells us that tax credits will jump-start the economy and help create 100,000 jobs," Williams said.

Chandler said his criticism of the administration's tax credits was that a quarter of Kentuckians, "the very poor people," received nothing. "They're the very people who would have taken that tax relief and spent it," he said.

Chandler's plan also includes creating "regional skills alliances" of schools, labor and business for customized training, plus training grants and low-interest education loans for unemployed or displaced workers.

Chandler's plan assumes a saving of $38 million per year by eliminating 1,000 state government jobs per year through attrition. That is based on a current work force of 38,700 and annual salaries and benefits costing $1.5 billion.

"The savings will be there if we do the job," Chandler said.

The plan also anticipates making money - conceivably $40 million, Chandler said - by offering state-owned land and buildings as sites for cell-phone towers. Added to that would be a benefit of expanded cellular and wireless communications, he said.

Fletcher plans to release his own economic development plan Tuesday in Louisville.

Keys to economic development plan

Highlights of Ben Chandler-Charlie Owen plan for creating 100,000 jobs:

•  Create "regional skills alliances" of schools, labor and business for customized, localized training.

•  "Kentucky Workers First" job training grants, low-interest education loans for unemployed or displaced workers. Grants capped at $3 million per year, loans at $10 million per year. Tax credit for businesses that pay to have research conducted by Kentucky universities.

•  Expand venture capital fund at University of Louisville. Create funds at the University of Kentucky to "seed" new businesses, create jobs in health care, energy, agriculture.

•  "Back-to-school sales tax holiday" to benefit consumers and retailers. Estimated cost: $7 million.

•  Create rural technology centers.

•  Eliminate 1,000 state jobs per year through attrition. Enforce hiring freeze for non-critical state positions. Ten percent reduction in politically appointed positions.

•  Sell 3,500 motor vehicles, one-third of state fleet. Restrict state travel, cell phone use.

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