JACKSON • Jay Hughes and Delbert Hosemann, the two candidates for Mississippi lieutenant governor, expressed differing ideas on how to fix the state’s crumbling infrastructure, make sure more citizens receive health insurance and improve public education during a televised debate Thursday night.
Hosemann, current secretary of state, is the Republican nominee for the office and touted his experience delivering items he promised he would do while he was secretary of state.
Hughes, a state representative from Oxford, is the Democratic nominee for the position and focused his message on saying he had introduced legislation already on most of the things Hosemann was suggesting.
On infrastructure, the two candidates agreed that more tax dollars should go back to the counties in order to fix infrastructure problems, but differed on the implementation of that idea.
Hosemann said he would consider increasing the state’s gasoline tax and would grant counties the power to raise the tax.
“What I’m going to propose is a local option use tax,” Hosemann said. “That means that every county will be able to determine whether or not they want to raise taxes on gasoline diesel or gasoline. I want to push our money back to the counties.”
Hughes also said he would consider an increase in the state’s gasoline tax, but differed by saying the tax would have to be revenue neutral in order to solve infrastructure problems and would not help poorer counties in the long run.
“If you’re talking about raising taxes county by county, it’s going to be the exact same counties that can’t afford it that are being underfunded in their schools right now and being taxed out,” Hughes said. “That’s the reality. We need to take care of all 82 counties and not punish the poorest ones that don’t have a tax base.”
On healthcare, the two candidates had different views on whether the state government should expand Medicaid through the Affordable Care Act.
Hughes said he supports the Mississippi Cares plan, which is a plan that would create a public-private partnership between the state government and Mississippi hospitals.
“We’ve got five counties right now that don’t have an emergency room,” Hughes said. “That means a stroke is a death sentence, and I think that’s wrong.”
Hosemann did not offer a specific plan for making sure more citizens receive health insurance, but he did say that he would consider all options for making sure more people have health insurance and to make sure citizens are closer to a hospital.
“The fact is that the whole Affordable Care Act has been declared unconstitutional in Texas and now is coming before the Fifth Circuit (Court of Appeals),” Hosemann said. “What we need to do is spend this time where they’re finding out whether the thing is constitutional, is to look at every option. It’s a $6 billion decision.”
Hughes has built his campaign around the idea of providing quality education to Mississippians to improve the quality of life for people in the state, and said all public employees, in addition to school teachers, deserve a pay increase.
“We’ve got to look at education as a whole, and we’ve got to get back to common sense instead of Common Core. We need less standardized testing. We need better pay for everyone that’s in the school systems.”
Hosemann went further than Hughes and said he wanted to give teachers a pay raise every year and start balancing the state’s budget by giving teachers a pay raise at the beginning of the budget process.
“I want to do pre-K. There were 19 collaboratives funded last year for pre-K. I want to fund all 50 so we can start our students earlier, so our teachers will have educated children when they’re coming into the school system.”
The two will compete in the general election on Nov. 5.