/Inside Philip Gunn and Delbert Hosemann’s relationship

Inside Philip Gunn and Delbert Hosemann’s relationship

An elected official with greater power than any other member of the state may have a policy idea he believes is good. Without good relationships with Jackson’s power brokers, the idea won’t survive the legislative process. While it takes skill and savvy to get policy through the Capitol’s doors, relationships are the most important thing. The relationships that are best in Jackson are those built over time, through hard-fought battles, and late-night steak dinners. The worst ones can jeopardize important legislative proposals and impede efforts to make Mississippi a better state. The relationship between a speaker or lieutenant governor and a legislator is crucial in Mississippi politics. These two leaders have been able to pass some of the most important legislation in Mississippi’s history. These two leaders have also been at the forefront of some of the most dramatic political battles in state history. In this relationship, party affiliation and the will to voters are often meaningless. Instead, large egos or defiant personalities often rise to the surface. Now, we’ve had two years to observe how Speaker of House Philip Gunn works with Lt. Governor. Delbert Hosemann and Philip Gunn work together. As major policy proposals hang over the historic 2022 legislative session. What is their relationship today? Here are the views of several lawmakers and politicians on the matter. Philip Gunn, the third-longest tenured Speaker in Mississippi’s history, enters his 11th year this week. Although Delbert Hosemann is still the new lieutenant governor of Mississippi, his first two years were certainly instructive. Gunn’s extensive experience has given him an advantage at the Capitol. He’s decisive and has built strong alliances. Gunn and his top lieutenants have developed relationships over many years with Senate leaders, as well as leaders of the Democratic and Black Caucus. Some of these Senate relationships could even surpass those they have with Hosemann their presiding officer. Gunn is supported by a small group of House ultra-conservatives, who don’t like him. However, their bloc is ineffective and weak. Hosemann has, however, been passive and indecisive during his first two-years. Hosemann and his staff are still learning about the building’s workings, and legislators from both parties have noticed this. A few Republican senators have also remained close to him. Tate Reeves was Hosemann’s lieutenant governor. This has caused tension and uncertainty in the Senate Republican caucus regarding key Hosemann proposals, several times. Although there has been some tension between Hosemann and Gunn, it was mostly kept private. However, this did not affect major policy proposals. They meet regularly and have become close friends in 2021. Sources on both sides claim that their relationship is at its best going into the 2022 session. However, many politicians are looking for signs of a breakdown in their relationship. Gunn’s top agenda item for this session is to eliminate the personal income tax. This account accounts for around one-third the state’s general funds revenue. Hosemann is not a fan of this proposal, despite having frequent talks with the speaker about its potential. Gunn would like to increase other taxes to compensate for the revenue gaps this tax cut would create, but sources tell Hosemann that he remains skeptical about whether a tax cut in a rare moment when Mississippi has cash is the best long term move for the state. How will Hosemann’s priorities be affected if Gunn does not get Hosemann’s cooperation on the tax cut? Many Capitol officials fear that there will be a wide policy gridlock between the Senate and the House if they don’t reach an agreement on Gunn’s proposal for a tax cut. Hosemann, who is the head of the upper chamber, has made it his priority to spend Mississippi’s historic surplus revenues, which were bolstered with federal stimulus cash. Hosemann has been touring the state, visiting more than 50 of its 82 counties and talking with local leaders about the best way to spend the $1.8 billion of American Rescue Plan Act funds. Hosemann hopes to use the best ideas from local leaders and match them with American Rescue Act Plan funds. He has also privately assured state agency heads and government leaders that they can fund their wish-lists. All of this, he seems to have done without Gunn’s approval. Gunn seems to be okay slowing down federal spending. Gunn has stated publicly that the lawmakers have many years to spend the funds so there is no need to rush. Hosemann doesn’t like this idea. He believes that the state has a great financial need and it is time to spend the money now. Although there are other instances where the leaders are not in sync with each other’s policy ideas, none is more significant than these two — they are the top priorities of both. Given the amount of work that both leaders have done on these plans and how they are publicly praised, compromises may not be possible on either plan. Political observers agree that these are the most important issues to be looking at when we reflect back on the session of 2022 and see how Gunn and Hosemann’s relationships began to unravel.