Former Chief Justice Bill Waller recently announced his decision to run for Governor in 2019 and News Mississippi sat down with him to discuss his place on the Republican ticket, as well as, several key issues which he believes are vital to Mississippi’s success.
Waller said his campaigning career began early with helping his father, William (Bill) Waller Sr. during his various campaigns and later on with his own political career.
“I’ve been around the process and I’ve been watching government and have been part of government too,” said Waller. “As Chief Justice, I had to work with the legislature as the head of the judicial branch of government in having legislation passed that affects the judiciary… I’ve worked with both the House and the Senate, I’ve worked with the Governor, I know what is necessary for the government to work for positive changes to be made for modifications, for new legislation.”
Waller served in the Mississippi Army National Guard, reaching the highest level in leadership and has more than 30 years of commissioned service in the Guard and in the United States Army Reserve. Waller is presently assigned to the Retired Reserve. He is a graduate of the U.S. Army War College and a recipient of the Legion of Merit. He attained the rank of Brigadier General while serving as the Commander of the 66th Troop Command.
“I think I’ve got a better skill set and a better track record that would offer someone with the experience, background and also the desire to reach out, to step out to try to be the governor the people expect me to be,” Waller said.
When Waller retired in November, he says he did not intend to run for Governor but was going to enjoy teaching in law school. He then started getting calls, letters, and visits from people who were not satisfied with the options specifically on the Republican ticket.
“I started looking at it, I started studying it, I started praying, visiting with my family and my friends,” said Waller. “The closer I looked, ultimately when I saw what Tate’s position was on our Roads and Bridges and on our Healthcare crisis I said we can do better than that, Mississippi has to do better than that, so I decided to pull the trigger and make the move about three weeks ago.
Waller says the current House and Senate are not working cohesively, something he hopes to change if elected as Governor.
“I’ve already had informal conversations with Speaker Gunn, and Delbert Hosemann who I think will be elected Lieutenant Governor,” said Waller. “Delbert is a neighbor of mine, we frequently visit and I think that we’ve got a team that can have some positive change for Mississippi that we haven’t had in the past.”
While Waller says there are a number of reasons for his decision to enter the race, he cites the state’s healthcare system and infrastructure crisis as being the top two areas which need fixing in Mississippi.
“When your house is on fire everybody in the house gets a bucket and tries to put it out and that is the type of effort that we need in this,” Waller said.
Referring to the $250M piece of legislation which was passed during the 2018 special session, Waller says the money was borrowed which “doesn’t sound very Republican to me.” The issue he adds is something that needs to be taken seriously and addressed with imagination.
“Anybody will tell you from attracting industry that the number one question they ask, the number one thing they look at is infrastructure, bridge, roads, and right now we are doing very poorly at that… I think the people are ready for some leadership, I think that the legislature is ready to act on a measure that would protect the taxpayers and allow us to move forward on our road and bridge improvement,” he said.
Increasing the gas tax has been talked about as a way to pay for the state’s infrastructure needs, but Waller says he is thinking of a more outside of the box approach.
“I was intrigued for instance with a bill proposed by Representative Busby from Jackson County which involved an 8 cent a gallon gas tax, he would propose a swap and do away with the 4% bracket on the state income tax so then you would have a 3% and you would have 5% which would result in some substantial real savings to people,” said Waller. “I thought that was a great creative idea that would have no impact on the taxpayers.”
He added that out of state individuals also need to do their fair share of paying for the roads if they are using them.
While waller has spent the past two decades on the judicial bench and has not claimed one party over the other, he says his decision to run as a Republican came because the GOP has remained with Mississippi values while the Democratic party has departed from those values and instead gone to the extreme left.
“I think there have been some changes made everywhere but today leaving the Chief Justice position as non-partisan and independent, I am very comfortable and philosophically that the Republican party is where I want to serve as the Republican choice who can win in November,” Waller said.