JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Republican Gov. Phil Bryant failed to acknowledge many of Mississippi’s problems in the State of the State address, a lawmaker said in the Democrats’ televised response.
Bryant gave the speech Tuesday at the Capitol, saying critics are portraying Mississippi in a negative light.
Rep. Jay Hughes of Oxford said Mississippi is last in public education, last in mental health care and first in poverty. He also said the state suffers from a “brain drain,” with large numbers of college graduates leaving.
While the governor mentioned low unemployment and robust job creation, Hughes said too many communities are stuck with low-paying jobs that don’t provide a way out of poverty.
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“Unfortunately, the policies that impact our quality of life have merely gone unchanged and underfunded,” Hughes said. “Simply ignoring a problem is not a solution.”
Other response to the State of the State:
Republican House Speaker Philip Gunn of Clinton:
Gunn said not to read too much into Bryant’s failure to mention road and bridge funding, saying he and Bryant have had “ongoing conversations.”
“The governor can’t cover everything in a 20-minute speech.”
Attorney General Jim Hood, a Democrat:
“The governor did a good job showing what’s bright with our economy, but he doesn’t talk about things that are going to cost money, like roads and bridges.”
“The job of government is to fix problems, and you’ve got to talk about the problems to fix them. You’ve got to talk about money.”
Hood said he thought it was a missed opportunity that lawmakers weren’t doing more to try to aid the city of Jackson with its infrastructure problems. “You’ve got porta-potties outside the Capitol building.”
Republican Sen. Lydia Chassaniol of Winona:
Chassaniol said she thought the governor’s emphasis on racial reconciliation recognized the honesty of the new Mississippi Civil Rights Museum. “It needs to be acknowledges that we pretty much laid ourselves bare.”
“I was excited to hear his interest in improving not only the health care and the education, but the job opportunities for poor people.”
Democratic Sen. Sollie Norwood of Jackson:
“The governor had some good expressions. I was listening for the how-to’s on some of it.”
Norwood said education funding is a problem that needs the governor’s involvement if the state is going to guarantee a good teacher to every child: “We’ve got to have the resources to make that happen.”
Norwood said he was pleased by the governor’s call for the state to train another class of state troopers, as well his advocacy for the Department of Child Protective Services.
Republican Sen. Briggs Hopson of Vicksburg:
“I thought the themes were very good, especially in light of the fact that we celebrated our bicentennial….. I think the acknowledgment of some of the difficulties of Mississippi were appropriate, but he gave a hopeful and optimistic vision of Mississippi.”
Democratic Rep. Sonya Williams Barnes of Gulfport:
“He did say he wants all citizens of Mississippi to be equal. So, is he going to support equal pay for women? … It is imperative to the economy in our state that all citizens, regardless of gender or race, get equal pay for the same work.”
Republican Rep. Robert Foster of Hernando:
“We are seeing positive returns for some of the decisions we have made.” Foster cited as an example the “third grade gate” law enacted in recent years, requiring students to achieve certain reading standards before moving to the fourth grade. “We are seeing positive results through that. Long-term, it was good policy.”
Rep. Abe Hudson, a Democrat from Shelby:
“Though I share the same passion as Gov. Bryant, I believe the way to achieve success in some areas is different, particularly in the area of public education. In order for our state to move forward from an educational perspective, we must continue to try to find a way so that every child gets an opportunity for success. I get concerned when we spend an equal amount of time discussing chargers and vouchers as we do public education.”