Kentucky gubernatorial candidates promised at forums last week that they will help NKU get a fair share of state funding and will consider a Regional Special Events Center if they are elected in November.
The Democratic candidates met on Wednesday night in Regents Hall with the Republicans following on Thursday.
The forums were sponsored by Student Government, College Republicans, College Democrats, the Scripps Howard Center for Civic Engagement and the Department of Political Science.
The candidates were given eight minutes to introduce themselves and talk about their campaigns.
They then answered questions from the crowd ranging from whether they approve land-based gambling to building a Regional Special Events Center on NKU’s campus.
During his introduction, President James Votruba poked fun at the size of Regents Hall. “I want to welcome you…to one of the finest middle school gymnasiums in the Commonwealth,” he said.
Democratic candidate Jody Richards, the current speaker of the House of Representatives, said he supports the Center.
“I have committed myself to the special events arena here,” he said.
Republican State Representative Steve Nunn said the Center is “desperately” needed. Nunn’s father, Louie B. Nunn, was the last Republican governor of Kentucky and helped establish NKU.
“As good as one Nunn was for Northern Kentucky University, the second Governor Nunn will provide that Special Events Center for you that you desperately need,” he said. “When you get a Kentucky degree from Northern Kentucky University you shouldn’t have to go to Ohio to accept it. We’ll make that a reality for you.”
The graduation ceremony is currently held in Cincinnati because the University lacks a venue large enough to host commencement.
Republican Robbie Rudolph, who’s running for Lt. Governor alongside gubernatorial candidate Rebecca Jackson, said he understands the importance of the Center and will consider the plan.
“For us to promise anything today, we can’t do that,” he said.
Boone County judge-executive Gary Moore, who represented Republican candidate, congressman Ernie Fletcher at the forum, said he believed Fletcher would address the issue, but that there were too many unknown factors to make a promise.
“I think any candidate would have a hard time standing here tonight saying ‘it will be built’ not knowing all of the unknowns that exist with our budget today,” he said.
Democratic candidate Charlie Owen, who’s running for Lt. Governor alongside Attorney General Ben Chandler, said he is dedicated to the project.
“We’re absolutely committed to the improvement and the change in the facility here and the events center will be included,” he said.
They also discussed the lack of state funding for NKU.
“It’s been since Governor Nunn that Northern Kentucky University got its share of the base funding,” Nunn said.
“We will make the commitment to you that you will be an equal partner in the higher education system.”
According to the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, NKU is underfunded by $26 million. The University recently raised tuition 16 percent for full-time undergraduates who live in-state.
Democratic candidate Bruce Lunsford said Kentucky balanced the state budget on the backs of college students by forcing universities to raise their tuition.
Moore said Fletcher would address higher education funding needs by cutting wasteful spending elsewhere.
Rudolph said inefficiencies in state government could be eliminated, which would open up more money for schools.
“Northern Kentucky University is going to be very important to our administration,” he said.
Republican candidate Virgil Moore, state Senator, said when new jobs are created, the state will have more money to fund higher education.
“Twenty-six million is not a goal way out there when you’re talking about creating 30,000 new jobs in 18 months in Kentucky,” he said. “That’s where we need to be and our goals need to be.”
Owen said his administration would look at the state budget to find places where costs could be cut.
“You’re going to receive the attention you deserve,” he said.