/Bryant bullish on teacher pay raises, jobs, and health care economy in final State of the State

Bryant bullish on teacher pay raises, jobs, and health care economy in final State of the State

Bryant speeches have been attacked by the media and criticised by naysayers in past years. This year, Bryant’s speech was positive and highlighted Mississippi’s achievements in education, recruitment industry, economic and workforce development. Bryant spent 40 minutes focusing on education. The governor thanked teachers and praised the growth of “school choice” initiatives and student achievement. Bryant’s tenure has seen “school choice” movements emerge across the state, including the creation of charter schools, a scholarship program to help students with special needs and a dyslexia therapy program. To move up to the fourth grade, third graders must pass the literacy test (known informally as “the third-grade gate”). Bryant stated that there is no doubt that the education system in America is better than ever and is headed in the right direction. Bryant stated that of all the educational reforms suggested by politicians, and all the public rhetoric by those who want to be education champions, none has done more for teachers. Bryant stated that he supports teacher pay increases, which is something the Legislature is considering during this legislative session. “Send me an act to authorize a raise for these most crucial guardians of Mississippi’s futurity, and I will sign.” Even though the picture is positive, some of his allies feel that the governor missed an opportunity talk about the big problems facing the state. Dick Hall, one the three state transportation commissioners said that he was disappointed that the governor did not go more in depth about infrastructure. “We don’t have enough money to keep what we have, let alone to start building the things we need,” he said. Hall, a Republican who recently stated that he will not be seeking reelection, said that we are far short of the funding needed. “I’m going to hop on this until my walk out in a year: The fuel tax will be the answer. It’s too late,” Bryant said. Bryant kept his upbeat tune going by praising the state’s economy, saying it is “financially sound” and that the fuel tax will be the answer. Bryant also highlighted the revenue collection for the current fiscal year. As he rattled off statistics such as the state’s record-low unemployment rate, rising median household earnings, and an increase of jobs since his election, Bryant slammed on the lectern. These are all national trends. Bryant stated, “A wise man once said the best social program was a job.” “The simple dignity and power of work can transform lives. I’ve long advocated that all Mississippians have a job, which would be a beacon to their success. We have helped the private sector to create more jobs in a shorter time period than any other in our state’s past history. Democrats responded by saying they were open to working with Republicans to improve Mississippi, but also addressing familiar criticisms of the party’s policies, such as tax cuts that Democrats claim drain Mississippi’s much-needed revenue. Despite the governor’s support for improved revenue collection, House Minority Leader Rep. David Baria (D-Bay St. Louis) stated in the Democratic response that “we will still struggle to finance education and basic services as the immense tax cuts passed in 2016 for out-of-state corporate entities begin to suck money out of the budget this fiscal year.” Bryant has been a passionate advocate for the idea that health care can be an economic driver for Mississippi. He spoke highly of Tradition, a planned new medical city on the coast that will have nursing and pharmacy school and a partnership agreement with the Cleveland Clinic. Some lawmakers pointed out that Bryant’s comments on health care were not focused on the possibility of expanding Medicaid in Mississippi. Mississippi Today reported in the last month that Bryant had quietly considered expanding Medicaid. Several prominent Republicans have also publicly stated that expansion could be beneficial for the state. Bryant’s discussion about improving access to healthcare did not mention Medicaid expansion. Baria stated that while Democrats aren’t certain what caused the governor’s election year epiphany, they are willing to work with bipartisanship to save rural hospitals. Sonya Williams-Barnes (D-Gulfport) pointed out that four rural hospitals have declared bankruptcy in the state in recent months. Williams-Barnes stated that rural hospitals are “the heartbeat of the state.” “And improving access health care means expanding Medicaid which means supporting rural hospitals.” Baria stated that Mississippi Democrats are willing, able, and able to collaborate with Republicans to help move the state forward. We only need our colleagues from across the aisle to join us in our common goal of improving Mississippi for all Mississippians. Representative Earle Banks, D. Jackson, said that the governor’s speech highlighted issues Democrats support for many years. Banks stated that he doesn’t know whether he is backpedaling on the issues he has discussed. Banks stated that it sounded like he was talking about Democratic values that he had been promoting for seven years since he became governor. “Teacher raises, roads and bridges, health care, assistance to people in our cities – these are the things Democrats have been talking about since many, many years.” To support this work, you can make a regular donation today as part of our Spring Member Drive. This will allow us to continue important work such as this story. Our reporters give a human face to policy and the impact it has on everyday Mississippians by listening more closely. To ensure that our work is aligned with the priorities and needs of Mississippians, we are listening to you. Click the button below to let us know what you think. Republish this Story