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Speech gets good marks from county lawmakers

Citing agreement on economic development and education funding,Lincoln County lawmakers offered generally good reviews of Gov.Haley Barbour’s fifth State of the State address, although somelegislators were left wanting a little more in the way of specificsand other proposals.

District 39 Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, D-Brookhaven, believesBarbour was speaking to Lincoln County and the surroundingarea.

“The governor was focused on creating jobs, and he has promisedme that the majority of that focus is going to be in SouthwestMississippi,” she said. “We have been left out of several largeprojects that have come to this state, and we are in a depressedarea for jobs. We’re certainly in line for our turn.”

Hyde-Smith also agreed with the governor’s plan to fully fundthe Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP), an item on thelegislative agenda that has spawned unity across chamber, andparty, lines.

“Fully funding MAEP is high on the priority list,” she said.”It’s a priority for the Legislature in both chambers, and we canall agree on that.”

Freshman District 92 Rep. Becky Currie, R-Brookhaven,agreed.

“Funding MAEP goes back to economic development,” she said. “Ifwe don’t get our children through school and give them a goodeducation, then we can’t get them good jobs. It goes hand in hand.Fully funding MAEP is a no-brainer. We all want what’s best for ourchildren.”

Currie said she took Barbour’s words about tough times to heart,but she believes the state still has room to grow.

“He got a strong message across, but I don’t think it was adoomsday message,” Currie said. “We have Toyota coming, andhopefully several industries that contribute to Toyota. I stillfeel like Mississippi is in opportunity mode. We have to remaindiligent, because we don’t want to lose any of that to otherstates.”

Currie said she was in line with the governor’s address, but shesaid she was disappointed at one item Barbour failed tomention.

“I didn’t disagree with anything he said, but the only thing Ifelt was lacking was that I wanted to hear a movement on illegalimmigration,” she said. “I think legislation will be drawn up, andI think we will pass it. Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant is leading the way,and I think legislation will be drawn up soon to deal with thegrowing illegal immigrant situation in our state.”

District 53 Rep. Bobby Moak, D-Bogue Chitto, had no problemswith the governor’s speech. However, he felt it was “verygeneral.”

“No specifics were proposed; it was a very broad overview,” hesaid. “We’re beginning a new four-year term, and I think most folkswould take the stand of, ‘Let’s see what the governor says and thenlook at the proposals.'”

Moak was also wary of the governor’s proposed tax study, thoughhe did agree to its necessity.

“One thing I agreed with was that he talked about his tax studythat he’s pushing out of his office, saying that everything was onthe table,” Moak said. “I’m really interested to see what comes outof that, if everything is on the table. This state has a tremendouslist of tax exemptions, and if everything is on the table, I takeit that the governor is looking at those sacred cows also.”

Moak said there was “a litany” of programs in Mississippi thatreceive tax cuts and reductions, and they are addressed veryrarely.

And, Moak said, they probably will not be addressed during thecurrent session, as Barbour does not have the tax study on scheduleuntil August. That could lead to extra time for thelegislators.

“He’s called a lot of special sessions, so that may be one forthe books,” Moak said.

Early in his State of the State address, Barbour told thelegislators now that all the campaigns were over, and the time forpolitics had ended. Moak implied that decorum could be maintained,but elected officials would have to be respectful of each other’sboundaries.

“You don’t get everything you want, but you try to compromiseand make it work,” Moak said. “The governor is in the executivebranch, and he has to understand that he can push his legislativeagenda and use his floor leaders, but he has to be very carefulabout his involvement in the Legislature because it will backfire.The Legislature is not milling around in the executive branch.”