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Governor discusses Mississippi’s future in State of the State Address

A joint session of the Mississippi Legislature was gaveled in on Tuesday, and Governor Phil Bryant delivered his 2018 State of the State Address to the people of the Magnolia State.

Governor Bryant stated that Mississippi is moving in the right direction as unemployment has hit its lowest mark in state history. He then delved into the future of education, health care and progress of the state. The Governor’s opening remarks reflected two different views of the state, one seeing decline,

“I realize that, to many of us here tonight, and to those watching and listening, there seem to be two Mississippi’s occupying the same time and space.

The proverbial critics would have you believe that one is a declining state whose people are suffering mightily.  They search for problems as if there is a reward for finding them.”

While others, including the Governor, see a thriving state.

“Fortunately, the other Mississippi is filled with progress.  It is inhabited with caring, hard-working people of all races and ages who strive valiantly every day to make this wonderful state a better place to live and raise our children.. I know we still have much work to do.  But, there are so many accomplishments to celebrate and be proud of.  Twice last year, the unemployment rate in Mississippi fell to 4.9 percent, and was 4.8 percent in November.  That is the lowest since unemployment levels began to be recorded in 1979.

I believe every Mississippian deserves an equal opportunity for a good job, and I am working hard to make this belief a reality.  As Ronald Reagan once said, the best social program is a job.  Now, that’s a program we have been very successful in expanding.  In the past, Mississippi has had people looking for jobs.  Today, we have more than 40,000 jobs looking for people.”

See below for a comprehensive overview of Governor Bryant’s remarks from tonight’s State of the State Address.

Job Creation:

Along with the aforementioned unemployment rate, the Governor touted companies such as Milwaukee Tool who recently announced 660 new jobs in the state, Continental Tire, who announced a $1.45 billion investment in Mississippi which will create 2,500 jobs before exclaiming that “Area Development” magazine awarded Mississippi its first Gold Shovel for excellence in economic development. The state now ranks in the top ten states in the nation for economic development opportunities.

“Working together, we have also made it easier for our entrepreneurs to pursue the American dream, ridding our occupational licensing system of red tape that for too long had served as nothing more than a barrier to market entry.  Other states are just now moving to adopt our plan to reduce regulatory burdens on professional services.  It has become known across the United States simply as the “Mississippi Model.”  This session, I will have some other recommendations to reduce more government regulations and unleash the independent spirit that will make Mississippi the most job-friendly state in America.”

Education

Education is set to be a widely debated topic throughout the legislative session as MAEP could face a rewrite, school choice is becoming an increasingly popular subject, and funding is always at the forefront of conversation. Governor Bryant says that while the system is not perfect, it is making strides and showing vast improvement.

“Our educational system, though far from perfect, is clearly better than it has ever been before.  For the first time in Mississippi’s history, more than 90 percent of our third graders have passed their reading exam, and our high school graduation rate has risen above 80 percent.  More than $100 million has been directed to teacher pay raises, we ended the election of local superintendents and dyslexia identification and response all became a reality.  Charter schools, early learning and school choice for special needs children all exist today because of the difficult decisions made by many of you here tonight.

Still, we have far too many failing schools whose students lag behind their counterparts across the nation. The reasons are systemic and are often related to a variety of conditions. Poverty, abuse, neglect and lack of leadership can all be listed. To address these issues, we created the Governor’s State Early Childhood Advisory Council.  SECAC is composed of state and national experts in education, health care, child welfare, mental health and early childhood learning.”

Bryant went on to praise teachers across the state and asked that the legislative bodies consider the expansion of school choice programs across the state.

“One thing I am certain of, that greatness will not be possible without every classroom having the right teacher.  We must do all in our power to allow good teachers to become great ones.  This should include continuing to fund at the highest level Teach for America and National Board Certified Teachers.  Data proves these dedicated teachers, in most every instance, produce better results.  We have many great teachers across the state and I know, like me, you are very proud of them all.

This session, I will ask you again to expand school choice for certain categories of children, offering special needs scholarships to even more students. I continue to believe parents should have the freedom to use their tax dollars to send their child to the school of their choice, not one decided by the government.”

Health Care

Governor Bryant stated that with the addition of several new medical facilities in Jackson, Harrison County, and others across the state, care across Mississippi is on its way up.

“Working together, we have also built a new world-class medical school at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. It will train the physicians so desperately needed in a state underserved by medical professionals. Because of your help, we are well on our way to achieving our goal of adding 1,000 new physicians by 2025.

The medical profession as an economic driver has become a reality in Mississippi.  Physicians today are responsible for over 51,000 jobs and have a total economic output of over $8 billion annually.”

Blair E. Batson’s Children’s hospital is set to receive a $180 million expansion.

“Our beloved Blair E. Batson Children’s Hospital in Jackson has announced a $180 million expansion.  The medical corridor I have long hoped to establish is becoming a reality. It stretches from the Medical Mall in Jackson to new clinics, medical specialty centers and even medical device manufacturers located just across the river in Rankin County.

With the leadership of the First Lady, UMMC and the Department of Human Services, we will soon begin construction on a long-term palliative care unit in Jackson’s medical zone. The center will offer a home-like treatment facility for the medically fragile children who are now living at Batson. This will be a life-altering experience for those patients and their families.

If there is ever a mission of mercy we can achieve, it is this palliative care medical home for the children of Blair E. Batson.”

Much like education, Governor Bryant knows that their work far from over as the cost of Medicaid continues to increase, and says that sometimes we are our own worst enemy when it comes to health care.

“Even with all this progress, the health of our population continues to lag behind most of the nation.  Unfortunately, many of these problems are of our own making.  We have an overwhelming tendency to be our own worst enemy when it comes to obesity, substance abuse and sexually transmitted diseases. If we are to solve these problems, we must face the uncomfortable facts, then take the necessary steps to assist those suffering while encouraging them to be more responsible for their own preventative health care.

These poor health choices have resulted in higher mortality rates and treatment of even more disabling illnesses.  Consequently, Medicaid costs have continued to increase, straining our state and federal budgets.  Frankly, we have spent far too many years believing that funding for Medicaid is unlimited and should be unquestioned.  We must change that way of thinking.

We must also insist that positive health care outcomes be the first responsibility of the Medicaid recipients.  Patients, providers and managed care companies should realize a new normal will exist from this day forward.  Our goal will be to prevent poor health care from getting worse, and to get Medicaid patients well.”

Governor Bryant concluded his remarks about health care by saying that we must manage these costs to ensure the quality of the care received by those who depend on the program.

“We must not only manage Medicaid for today’s needs, but assure sustainability for future demands.  Those in extended care facilities should not be told we cannot continue to fund their existence.

If we manage the system properly and eliminate the waste, fraud and abuse, we can assure a better quality of life for those truly in need.  Your assistance in properly framing the Medicaid Technical Amendments Act will certainly make all the difference in maintaining an effective and sustainable Medicaid program for years to come.

 Unity

Mississippi recently celebrated its bicentennial with the unveiling of the Mississippi History and Civil Rights Museums in Jackson, and Governor Bryant said that it was a special day for all Mississippians as the world watched.

“I am honored to report to you that Mississippi has completed an amazing, year-long celebration of our Bicentennial. A record 23 million visitors came to Mississippi.  Hundreds of events took place across the state.  Many included music, the arts and educational opportunities.  The grand finale of this once-in-a-lifetime celebration was the opening of the Museum of Mississippi History and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum. I am thankful the president of the United States of America came to Jackson, Mississippi, to honor the opening of our two great museums.

I am told some 20 million people watched the president’s tour and remarks that day at the Civil Rights Museum.  It seemed the entire world was watching as Mississippi told our own story.  To quote the iconic Myrlie Evers, “I was proud of the state of my birth.”  Myrlie’s kind and gentle soul was captured in the inspiring speech she delivered that cold and snowy day on LeFleur’s Bluff.”

Closing Remarks

Governor Bryant’s closing remarks called on leaders and lawmakers to set their personal agendas aside as they aim to build on the momentum that Mississippi has and create a stronger state for the next generation

“Each year I have asked you to set aside your political agendas and focus only on what would be best for Mississippi — understanding that we may have different paths to a better tomorrow, but remaining hopeful that we can at least agree on the direction and destination for our state.

This year the plea to work together will be no different.  However, I do have a renewed faith in the outcome.  I have seen the results of our mutual efforts and know they far surpass the perceived and temporary gain of political posturing.

I have witnessed two world-class museums open in the Capital City.  I have seen dramatic improvements in Mississippi’s public education system.  I have worked with you to turn our state into a leader in health care and economic development.  When we press forward together, we can, and have, achieved greatness.

If Mississippi is to make the permanent leap from good to great, we must all have a dedication to achievement.  We must inform our people that self-destructive behavior is contagious and can cause an entire state to struggle.  They must know that individual responsibility will guarantee better outcomes for each of them and collective success for all of us.

After 200 years of trials and tribulations, wars and reconstruction, storms and recessions, we continue to persevere. With your help, I believe this legislative session can be our best ever.  It can be the year we come together in a common bond of commitment to our people’s best interest.  I promise you my door will always be open.  I will always listen to your concerns and be unoffended by our mutual disagreements.

In closing, I wish to thank you again for this opportunity to reflect on the state of our state and rededicate myself to being governor for all our people. Now, let us go from this appointed time and place, committed to serving the people of Mississippi and making this wonderful land an even better place for tomorrow’s generation.

May God bless you, the Great State of Mississippi and the United States of America.”

To watch Governor Bryant’s full remarks, see below:

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