Wichita — The Republican nominee for Kansas state treasurer criticized Democratic incumbent Dennis McKinney on Wednesday about advertisements for the state-sponsored college savings program.
The ads for the Learning Quest college savings plan stopped airing earlier this week, but Republican Ron Estes called a news conference to say it was inappropriate for McKinney to run the spots — in which he appears — so close to the Nov. 2 election.
“We should promote the program and not necessarily promote the individual,” Estes told reporters.
McKinney’s campaign said the ads, which have been broadcast statewide for several weeks, involve no state money and are run by American Century Investments, not the state treasurer’s office. It noted the treasurer has a statutory duty to promote the program.
The advertising will be off the airwaves until after the election at McKinney’s request. McKinney also noted that previous treasurers have run such ads into October.
Learning Quest is the state’s college savings program, with $2.3 billion invested in 55,000 accounts for Kansas families. About $580 million has been invested by Kansas residents themselves.
“It made sense to run it in September, because it was National Higher Education Savings Month, and you capture the back-to-school time of the year,” McKinney said. “We think you drive home the point better that ‘now is the time to save for higher education,’ because that’s when you have parents thinking about education.”
McKinney said with higher education costs increasing faster than inflation for most of the past two decades, encouraging saving is critical.
“It’s an important job, and the job doesn’t stop because of an election,” he said. “It’s not only helping parents save. It’s a critical investment in the future of the Kansas work force.”
Estes said he would push for the Legislature to outlaw such advertising so close to elections, pledging if elected to not run any such ads himself during the 60 days prior to an election.
“We have to make sure we don’t ruin the trust of the people of Kansas,” Estes said.
Meanwhile, McKinney had his own Statehouse news conference Wednesday to announce that he received the endorsement of the Kansas Agri-Business Council in his race against Estes. He’s also received the Kansas Farm Bureau’s endorsement.