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Napolitano's plan hinges on universities

Janet Napolitano speaks in Tempe about her plans to resolve the Arizona budget crisis.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Janet Napolitano confronted Arizona's budget crisis by publicizing her economic development plan at a press conference Wednesday.

"We [Arizona] haven't had a long-term economic vision," Napolitano said. "Arizona needs a governor who is a problem solver."

The plan called for producing an educated workforce, supporting university research, developing rural Arizona and establishing the state as a gateway to Mexico and Latin America.

"I want the state to be a port to the South, a biotech center, and to have jobs available," Napolitano said.

Napolitano added that she has met with numerous business owners who stressed the importance of improving education as a way to enhance business opportunities and the Arizona economy.

"The number one thing government can do for businesses is to create a skilled workforce," she said.

Napolitano said in order to improve everything from business opportunities to the economy she would make it her goal to have higher education available to more Arizonans.

"We want to focus on middle-class families who are just below the level where universities give aid," said Noah Kroloff, Napolitano's policy director.

In order to make higher education available to more students, Napolitano said she has developed a plan that she calls the Arizona Tuition Reserves for University Students of Tomorrow (TRUST).

The TRUST program would target families whose income is too high to qualify for aid, but whose income is too low to pay for college without a struggle.

It allows parents to pre-pay college costs as early as their child's birth. All payments would then be pooled into a diversified investment pool and paid out when the child enters college.

Napolitano also said she wants to establish a statewide work-study program, placing students in jobs in their field of study.

Unlike the federal work-study program, which places students in low-paying, low-skill campus jobs, the Arizona Work-Study program would create an "active learning" environment.

Napolitano also added that in order for universities to benefit economically from the research they do, they must make commercial partnerships between businesses and schools.

The proposal Napolitano suggested would establish a governor's council on Technology Transfer to keep ideas moving between universities and the economic marketplace.

Napolitano also wants to keep students in the state after graduation, in order to enrich the job market and to stimulate the economy.

"Kids feel that they have to go outside Arizona to get a good education," said Pat Stoner, general partner of Stoner Roland, a technology firm. "[Napolitano's plan] is the kind of backing we want from the government. This plan is great for Arizona."

Napolitano added that old-fashioned economic ideals are the cause of the budget crisis.

"I'm laying out how great this state can be," she said. "Twenty-year-old ideas have dragged us right down where we are now."

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