Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill Curry proposed a plan Tuesday that would pay off portions of college graduates’ loans if they serve as emergency service workers in Connecticut for at least two years.

Curry said he hopes the $5 million proposal would encourage more people to become professional firefighters, police officers, emergency medical workers and nurses. Under the plan, similar grants also would be made available to science and math teachers.

“There is a crisis in attracting people to these jobs,” Curry said Tuesday, one week before the one-year anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Joining him at the Hartford Fire Department’s South Green station were several firefighters, supporters and his running mate, state Senate Majority Leader George Jepsen.

Curry’s proposal would provide $5,000 in student loan forgiveness, over two years, for up to 1,000 graduates per year from Connecticut’s public universities, colleges and community colleges. They would have to work for at least two years as an emergency worker in the state.

Another provision would use the balance of the account to provide $2,500 grants to Connecticut first responders who have more than seven years of service. Those grants could only be used for skill development.

But how Curry would pay for the program attracted almost more attention than the initiative itself, named the HEROS program, Helping Everyone Realize Opportunity in Service. Curry said he can find the money by eliminating a class of political appointees in state government known as “durational project managers.”

But Donna Micklus, a spokeswoman for the Department of Administrative Services, said the number of political appointees was not at an all-time high. She said more were hired during former Gov. Lowell P. Weicker Jr.’s tenure. The durational project manager title began in 1992 when Weicker was governor, she said.

Nuala Forde, Rowland’s campaign spokeswoman, said Curry is painting a certain class of workers with a broad brush.

“Mr. Curry should probably do some research before he starts cutting off people’s heads,” said Forde, adding that Curry already proposed eliminating the appointed posts. “You can only fire the same set of people so many times before you run into credibility problems.”

–Associated Press