LANSING Although Gov. John Engler did not speak about growing tuition costs in his State of the State address last night, the candidates for governor from both parties guaranteed to tackle the rising costs of higher education.

Engler promised to leave the future governor with a healthier budget than when he took office in 1991, though he did not endorse any specific candidate.

“I will not leave to the next governor the mess that was left to me,” Engler said.

Both Attorney General Jennifer Granholm, a Democratic candidate, and Lt. Gov. Dick Posthumus, a Republican candidate, agree on monitoring universities” abilities to raise tuition above inflation rates.

“I recommended the creation of a Michigan tuition savings plan so that families can save for college with tax free dollars,” said Posthumus.

He added his support for a plan that would reward universities who maintain low tuition rates and punish those do not.

“It is not acceptable to raise rates on the backs of students when there are other means of securing funding,” said Granholm.

“You have got to haul (the university boards) in and tell them that that funding is going to be compromised if (they) don”t keep tuition at a reasonable level,” she added.

Sen. Alma Wheeler Smith (D-Salem Twp.) plans to use student scholarship money to bolster overall higher education funding.

“We”ve got to look at delaying the tax cut, but (Engler) says he”s not going to do it,” Smith said. “I would certainly look very hard as governor of the state at the money we”ve set aside for the merit scholarships. I can serve a lot more students by putting those dollars in higher education.”

Sen. John Schwartz (R-Battle Creek) defended Engler”s past commitment to higher education.

“Because it wasn”t an integral part of the State of the State message doesn”t mean that it hasn”t been discussed intensively and in detail,” he said. Schwartz is running for the GOP nomination.

“The 15 state universities would consider it a triumph if there were no cut. I have that opportunity (to maintain funding) as chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee on Higher Education,” he added.

U.S. Rep. David Bonior (D-Mt. Clemens) said that as governor he would address the single business tax and income tax to ensure the availability of resources for higher education.

Former Gov. James Blanchard, also running for the Democratic nomination, was absent last night. In total, seven candidates have announced their intentions to run for their parties nominations. The Republican and Democratic primaries will take place in early August.

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