Nice, propitiatory (there’s that word again) State of the State address by Gov. Tate Reeves last week. He spoke of Mississippians’ grit, pride and faith. He talked of his personal goal to cultivate more empathy. “We must love our neighbors as ourselves,” he said. “Above all we have to understand that every Mississippian – every American – is on the same team.”
He continued saying, “For me, that means looking out for those who need extra help. It means being honest with people – admitting what I don’t know and working to be better. It means diligently working to make Mississippi an even more welcoming, prosperous state.”
“I’m incredibly lucky that I’m not in it alone. None of us are. We’re surrounded by a legion of fellow Mississippians. People who care about you. People who want you to succeed, because they know we will all rise together. If we can just harness that, we can accomplish anything.”
Now, will his policy priorities match his rhetoric?
His State of the State was brief and short on policy. He did, appropriately, put conquering the COVID-19 pandemic as his top policy priority. He did support increased teacher pay (if the Legislature can pass it). Without specifics he called for the Legislature to “sharpen” the tool of workforce development to train up a competitive workforce.
And he called for “bold” action to “transform our economy” by (trumpets sound) eliminating the personal income tax.
Hmmm. Apparently Gov. Reeves believes this tax is now the major obstacle keeping good jobs from pouring into Mississippi.
When industry site selectors look at Mississippi their priorities include things like proximity to markets; transportation and utility infrastructure and costs; workforce availability, training, and costs; business climate, primarily regulation and corporate taxes; and quality of life including schools, housing, and cost of living.
When Blueprint Mississippi gathered business leaders to look at what the state needed to be competitive in 2004 and again in 2011, the top priorities included education, workforce development, access to capital, infrastructure development, healthcare, and leadership.
Others cite as current economic development priorities expanding rural access to high speed Internet and greatly improving science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education outcomes in schools.
Unlike five years ago when then Lt. Gov. Reeves successfully argued that cutting business and corporate taxes would improve the state’s economic competitiveness, his contention that cutting personal income taxes will exhort growth doesn’t seem to stack up. There are numerous other economic development essentials that could do more.
Former President Donald Trump proposed spending over $1 trillion to improve infrastructure saying that would also employ millions of American workers. A state infrastructure program featuring rural Internet expansion, utility upgrades, transportation improvement, and new and improved school buildings with more STEM equipment could do the same for Mississippi.
In a related matter, the Governor finally appointed John Rounsaville as permanent director of the Mississippi Development Authority. Good move. Rounsaville has a firm grasp of Mississippi’s development needs.
“Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good” – Romans 12:9.
» BILL CARWFORD is a syndicated columnist from Jackson.