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Governor Reeves delivers State of the...

Governor Reeves delivers State of the State address, calls on lawmakers to capitalize on opportunities

By: Sarah Ulmer ,    Jeremy Pittari - February 27, 2024

  • In this term’s first State of the State, Gov. Tate Reeves focused on the future of Mississippi through capitalizing on corporate investments, increasing educational opportunities and workforce development, and making the state safer.

Governor Tate Reeves delivered his first State of the State address for this new term before a joint session of the Mississippi Legislature on Monday.

Reeves, who said he would not be focusing on the differences between Democrats and Republicans during his address, cast a vision aimed at capitalizing on opportunities for Mississippians.

“Our state has many challenges. We also have many opportunities. In fact, we have more opportunities than we have ever had before,” Reeves told Senators and Representatives. “The task in front of us is whether we can roll up our sleeves and meet these challenges before these opportunities pass us by.”

Governor Reeves spent time highlighting Mississippi’s success in attracting industries to the state over the last few years. In January 2024 alone, the state gained more private investments than in the 120 months before he became Governor.

His vision centered on what he called the “fundamental nature” of Mississippi, saying agriculture, forestry, manufacturing, industry, tradesmen, craftsmen, cultivators and workers are the key to the state and a resource he hopes to see utilized even more.

“We make things – real things. We make fridges and fighter jets. We make cars and sow cotton. We make bullets and grow soybeans. You can touch our work, and know that highly trained, capable, proud Mississippi hands made those products,” said Reeves.

Governor Reeves criticized the outsourcing of labor to other countries, saying there is no better place to make things in America, for Americans, than in Mississippi. He believes that as the national culture catches up with the mentality of keeping jobs in America, Mississippi is in a position to capitalize within multiple industries seeking to lay down roots.

“Ports, airports, rail and roads. As good stewards of taxpayer dollars, we should help the Mississippi Department of Transportation increase their efficiency by giving them authority to use alternative delivery methods in completing their construction projects,” said Reeves, speaking on the need to ensure infrastructure access across the state.

State Rep. Grace Butler-Washington (D-HD 69) said she appreciated the Republican Governor’s call to work together.

“It was intriguing. Interesting in regard to the new things he wants to see for the state of Mississippi during the first year of his last term, and it kind of goes in line with some of the things he talked about on the campaign trail in working with all of us together. That was one thing that really struck me. For us to basically put aside our political differences and just do what’s right and what’s best for the people,” said Rep. Butler-Washington. “I really appreciate the fact that he discussed working together, for us being non-partisan and putting those differences aside for the people that sent us here. ”

One State Senator who lives on the southwest of the state where ports and rails are prevalent, District 37’s Senator Albert Butler (D), said he was happy to hear Governor Reeves’ commitment to supporting the things that lead to economic development.

“The things that he said to move the state forward, I agree one hundred percent. When you look at the railroads, you look at our ports, those things that are right and readily available to take advantage of. But my concern is taking advantage of all of them. So, I would like to see things come that way,” Sen. Butler added.

In order to support these industries, Governor Reeves said the state must take full advantage of the Mississippi Miracle, the state’s successes in the K-12 education system that has been touted across the country. He called on lawmakers to be open to new and different education models, allowing parents the right to choose their child’s school and ensuring students are qualified and connected with high-paying jobs when they graduate.

Governor Reeves proposed creating twelve Mathematics and Engineering Magnet Schools throughout the state. He hopes to see this happen by establishing eight Pre-K through 8th grade schools and three high schools. He alluded to the use of the old Central High School in Jackson as one prime location to see this come to fruition.

He also called on the Legislature to enact an apprenticeship education model for high school seniors where students can receive academic credit in a hybrid environment versus the traditional classroom-only setting.

“Mississippi kids are our future. And by providing them with a cutting-edge education, we will ensure Mississippi’s future remains bright,” said Reeves.

In addition, the Governor would like to see incentive programs to retain and attract top researchers in relevant fields at Mississippi universities. He said this must be done in order to recruit more talent that will outpace competition.

Moving into the future, Governor Reeves said energy innovation is key to putting Mississippi in a place to compete, saying the state must become capable of mastering all forms of energy from pipelines to turbines. He said the ability to support interested industries seeking to make Mississippi home will require energy resources from oil derricks to solar panels.

“I don’t care if it’s green wind power or black crude oil or anything in between. It’s going to be made in Mississippi,” said Reeves.

Part of attracting industries and providing more substantial education and work opportunities is a need to provide law and order, Governor Reeves said. Earlier this month he was joined by public safety officials in announcing Operation Unified in the Jackson metro area. This initiative is aimed at removing drug traffickers and violent criminals in the capital city.

That was welcome news to State Rep. Celeste Hurst (R-HD 75).

“I was encouraged to hear the Governor highlight his plan to fight violent crime in our capital city, expand job opportunities and workforce development, as well as continue to advocate to lower the tax burden,” said Rep. Hurst.

Governor Reeves renewed his call on the Legislature to lower the tax burden on Mississippians this session. He has been a strong advocate for full elimination of the income tax. Reeves sees it as an economic development issue as important as site and workforce development.

“Ultimately, if we handle these fundamentals, I know that the people of Mississippi will have cause to say we’ve done our jobs well. We are at our best when we focus on achieving those basic tasks that have been given to us,” said Governor Reeves.

State Rep. Sam Creekmore (R-HD 14) liked the spirit of the Governor’s address.

“I think the unifying and working together and recreating that spirit again that we had at the very beginning, I think we can do that. I think we got a lot of issues we can work toward as Republicans and Democrats to make Mississippi better,” Rep. Creekmore said. “Mental health, the health care system in general, all of those are topics we can agree on. Not necessarily that the Governor spoke about them today, that spirit though, we can continue that. I was glad to hear it.”

Democratic Response from State Rep. Robert Johnson

State Representative Robert Johnson (D), the Democratic Leader in the Mississippi House, offered his party’s the response to the Governor’s State of the State. Johnson focused heavily on healthcare needs, education funding, and infrastructure problems in primarily low-income and black communities.

Johnson pushed for Medicaid expansion as a means to address many of the healthcare concerns he went on to outline in the state, noting that Governor Reeves has been opposed to Medicaid expansion in Mississippi.

Rep. Johnson made claims that Reeves consistently ignores citizens’ concerns and prominent issues across the state. The Democratic leader said in lieu of addressing those things, Reeves reiterates that Mississippi is in the best financial shape it has ever been in.

“Is your life any different now than it was last year? Are you healthy, are you wealthy?” asked Johnson.

Rep. Johnson believes Mississippians share more values than not. He said the state’s residents have a desire to help their neighbor and deserve a Governor who cares about all of the state, not just those east of Interstate 55, a reference to the struggles faced in the Delta. He called for “equity in economic development” aimed at encouraging investment in the Delta area.

“We are a better place when we work together and overcome our differences,” said Johnson.

About the Author(s)
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Sarah Ulmer

Sarah is a Mississippi native, born and raised in Madison. She is a graduate of Mississippi State University, where she studied Communications, with an emphasis in Broadcasting and Journalism. Sarah’s experience spans multiple mediums, including extensive videography with both at home and overseas, broadcasting daily news, and hosting a live radio show. In 2017, Sarah became a member of the Capitol Press Corp in Mississippi and has faithfully covered the decisions being made by leaders on some of the most important issues facing our state. Email Sarah:
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Jeremy Pittari

Jeremy Pittari is a lifelong resident of the Gulf Coast. Born and raised in Slidell, La., he moved to South Mississippi in the early 90s. Jeremy earned an associate in arts from Pearl River Community College and went on to attend the University of Southern Mississippi, where he earned a bachelor's of arts in journalism. A week after Hurricane Katrina, he started an internship as a reporter with the community newspaper in Pearl River County. After graduation, he accepted a full-time position at that news outlet where he covered the recovery process post Katrina in Pearl River and Hancock Counties. For nearly 17 years he wrote about local government, education, law enforcement, crime, business and a variety of other topics. Email Jeremy:
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