JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi is seeing higher wages, an increase in the high school graduation rate and an “economic boom” that has led to a $4 billion surplus in the state budget, Republican Gov. Tate Reeves said Monday in his State of the State speech.
“The people of Mississippi are our state’s strength. It is because of your hard work that our state is primed and ready to face the challenges of tomorrow," Reeves said during his speech on the south steps of the state Capitol.
Republican Reeves, who is seeking a second term in the state's highest office, used part of his speech to touch on some of the same anti-transgender themes that other conservatives are using across the United States. He said “radical liberals" are threatening society by allowing children to choose their own pronouns and “advancing untested experiments and persuading kids that they can live as a girl if they’re a boy, and that they can live as a boy if they’re a girl.”
Reeves renewed his call for the GOP-controlled Legislature to eliminate Mississippi's income tax. He signed Mississippi's largest income tax reduction into law last year, but some top lawmakers resisted a total elimination because of concerns about future funding for education, health care and other services.
“Whether it’s the record investment or all-time low unemployment, the all-time high graduation rate or standing up to the radical left’s war on our values — Mississippi is winning, and our state is on the rise," Reeves said.
Reeves praised the U.S. Supreme Court for using a Mississippi case last summer to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that had legalized abortion rights nationwide. Mississippi has a law that bans most abortions, and Reeves said he wants to pursue “a new pro-life agenda” with child care tax credits, more adoptions and an expansion of state support for pregnancy resource centers that provide baby supplies and counsel women against abortion.
Reeves said he was proud to have signed a significant teacher pay raise in 2022. He said he wants legislators to pass a “Parents' Bill of Rights" that would “further cement that when it comes to the usage of names, pronouns, or health matters, schools will adhere to the will of parents.”
“There is no room in our schools for policies that attempt to undercut parents and require the usage of pronouns or names that fail to correspond with reality,” Reeves said.
Reeves said the capital city of Jackson has an unacceptably high rate of homicides, and he called on legislators to put more money into the Capitol Police, who patrol part of the city.
"In Mississippi we choose to fund the police," he said. “We choose to back the blue.”
The governor said Mississippi should boost health care by cutting bureaucracy, increasing medical residency programs and relying on technology.
“Don’t simply cave under the pressure of Democrats and their allies in the media who are pushing for the expansion of Obamacare, welfare and socialized medicine,” Reeves said.
Brandon Presley, a public service commissioner who is running for governor this year, gave the Democrats' response to the State of the State. Presley recorded his own brief speech inside a shuttered hospital that used to employ more than 200 people in Newton.
“The reality is that under Tate Reeves' leadership, we're moving in the wrong direction,” Presley said. “Nothing makes that clearer than where I'm standing tonight."
Presley said 38 other rural hospitals are in danger of closing because Reeves has refused to expand Medicaid to people who work low-wage jobs that don't provide health insurance.
Expansion is an option under the health care overhaul signed into law in 2010 by then-President Barack Obama. Mississippi is among 11 states that have not expanded Medicaid. Reeves and many other Republican officials in Mississippi say they don’t want to put more people on a government-funded program.
“When Tate Reeves finally wakes up and asks why hospitals in Mississippi are closing, he should look in the mirror," Presley said.
Presley said Mississippi is "at the bottom of the nation for economic growth" and is one of seven states with a sales tax on groceries.
“In the Mississippi Delta, there's only one pediatrician for every 4,000 kids," Presley said. "It's no surprise that we lead the nation in the deaths of children under the age of 1. How is that pro-life? What all that does that tell you? That Tate Reeves is only pro-life until you're born, and then he's done caring about you.”