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Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves speaks to Brookhaven civic clubs

Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves spent a half-hour Wednesday laying out his views of state government during a joint meeting of civic clubs in Brookhaven.

There were few surprises in Reeves’ lunchtime speech at the Brookhaven Country Club, but a few questions from the crowd at the end of his prepared remarks gave him an opportunity to address a couple issues that have been on the public’s radar.

On road and bridge funding, Reeves was clear that more money needs to be spent at the state level. He was less certain, however, on where the state would find the additional funding.

“I believe very strongly that roads and bridges … are core functions of government,” he said. “And as core functions of government, I believe we ought to spend more resources on an annual basis fixing those core functions of government. It is something that I think there is general consensus — I think  — in the legislative body that we ought to spend more money.

“It’s not as if we’re not spending any money, we just need to spend an incremental amount more of money. The question that we haven’t answered … is where do those resources come from?”

Reeves was adamant that a gas tax did not have support in the Legislature.

“The Legislature does not have the political will to raise the gas tax,” he said. “The numbers just are not there. I’m not for raising the gas tax either.”

He suggested an increase in taxes on other products or services could provide more funds for infrastructure. He also said finding savings in other parts of state government might fund it.

“I think what you’re going to find is that there will be a continued effort in this legislative session to find additional dollars — a significant amount,” he said.

Roads and bridges are an ongoing issue in Lincoln County, with several bridges already closed due to safety concerns and more likely to be added to the list. The Board of Supervisors recently agreed to take out a $5 million loan to fund infrastructure improvement. Supervisors have complained that they do not have enough funding to adequately address infrastructure needs.

Federally mandated inspections of bridges have cost the county money that could have been used to improve roads and bridges, supervisors said.

On a state lottery, Reeves said he was personally opposed to it, but that “the chances of a lottery are fairly good.”

“I am personally not convinced that a lottery makes sense for Mississippi,” Reeves said. “Gov. Bryant has been very adamant in his support of a lottery. The House of Representatives has voted multiple times in the last couple years on multiple bills to pass a lottery in our state. I think if there was ever a vote on the floor in the Mississippi Senate, there would be a majority of members who would like to vote to have a lottery.”

Reeves is president of the Senate and can influence which bills make it to the floor for a vote.

Reeves said the implementation of a lottery would be complicated. He also questioned whether a lottery would generate “new revenue” or would only move money from one sector of the economy to another.

Reeves also touted what he called the state’s successes when it comes to economic development and education.

“I believe our No. 1 priority in state government should be job creation,” he said. “But I have a political philosophy that says government does not create jobs. Government’s role is to create the environment that encourages those of you in the private sector to invest capital and create jobs.”

On education, he cited improved graduation rates for students in Mississippi as well as improved scores on the third-grade reading gate.

Reeves has family connections to Lincoln County. His grandmothers are from Bogue Chitto and both parents graduated from Bogue Chitto High School.