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Trio sound off on Senate race

A nurse practitioner, a business owner and an attorney in her second term in the state Senate are all running a GOP race in the primary elections for District 39, with no one opposing on the Democratic ticket.

If the race isn’t settled during the election Aug. 6, it will be soon after in a run-off.

District 39 includes Lincoln, Copiah, Lawrence and Walthall counties.

The candidates for the seat — listed below in alphabetical order — emailed their responses to four questions.

Beth Brown, 62, nurse practitioner who owns and manages health care clinics

Experience for the Senate District 39 seat: Associate degree with focus in accounting, owner and manager of two start-up companies, one manufacturing company with 78 employees, doctorate in nursing with exposure to healthcare policy and research, teaching on secondary level, completion of a state-sponsored leadership program with proven ability to work across barriers.

Do you support a form of Medicaid reform or expansion?

I do support Medicaid reform. There is waste and abuse in our current system. As a healthcare provider, I see where too many people have their hands in the allocated funds. This diminishes what should be used for providing care to our citizens who qualify for services.

Do you support a gas tax increase to fund road improvements?

No, because gas tax monies would be adequate for road improvement if,  when collected, they indeed went for road maintenance and improvement. Money trail should be followed.

Do you believe Mississippi teachers receive adequate pay now that they have received a one-time $1,500 raise and if not, what is your solution to increase their salaries?

No, it is not adequate because it is not in line with MS Code Section 37-19-7. My solution would be to follow the code that has already passed and is in place. I have met with several teachers from the area and it appears they have not had an increase in approximately eight years.

What are the five biggest challenges for Mississippi ranked in order and how will the state overcome them?

Healthcare: Reform Medicaid. Stop paying out-of-state for-profit companies millions of dollars to manage care plans and allow Mississippi True (a Mississippi Hospital Association program) to provide the managed care. This would help save some of our financially troubled rural hospitals. It would keep money in Mississippi, produce jobs for Mississippians and allow economic growth in our communities.

Education: End the current teaching-to-test and allow input from teachers to the board by creating a teacher advisory panel that meets with the state board.

Economy: Small businesses feed our economy. We need to look at tax breaks and incentives for small businesses.

Drug Abuse: We must continue funding the drug court and not cut funding in order to help rehabilitate addicts and illicit users. There is more drug abuse now and with it comes increased crime rates.

Mental Health: We must evaluate how we are addressing mental health. We all have “skin in the game” and we need ways to ensure patients stay on medications. Creating a program similar to drug court might increase compliance of psychotropic medications.

Josh Davis, 41, owner of A&J Pool Service

Do you support a form of Medicaid reform or expansion?

Yes. Healthcare is a major problem in Mississippi. The Mississippi Hospital Association proposed a partnership between the state, federal government and hospitals to give low paid non-disabled working adults the tools to provide healthcare for their families. If a family of four makes approximately $35,000 or less the program is more than helpful … to these families and our local hospitals.

Do you support a gas tax increase to fund road improvements?

I support a user fee. Everyone that uses the roads would then contribute; do away with state income tax. A lot of people use the roads and bridges, but never pay income tax or property tax, which makes its harder on the working people who pay both of those taxes and gas taxes. Make it fair to everyone.

Do you believe Mississippi teachers receive adequate pay now that they have received a one-time $1,500 raise and if not, what is your solution?

I do not think the teachers’ pay is adequate. They deserve more money and we are in a teacher shortage now, which will only get worse if we don’t fix it now. If we do away with state testing, the millions we would save could go toward teachers’ pay. A bigger share of the lottery profits could go toward education and teacher pay also.

What are the five biggest challenges for Mississippi ranked in order and how will the state overcome them?

1. Education: End state testing, which will let our teachers get back to teaching the students what they need to be taught. Give every student access to vocational technical classes.

2. Economy: Everyone says Mississippi’s economy is at an all time high, but in southwest Mississippi you wouldn’t think that it was. We need leadership in our district. In Brookhaven alone in the past year we have lost two grocery stores, two Fred’s, and several small locally-owned businesses, not to mention the $10 million business park at the end of the boulevard that has created zero jobs.

3. Infrastructure: As I said earlier, less taxes and add a user fee. Everyone that uses the roads and bridges helps pay for them.

4. Healthcare: Our healthcare system needs reworking. I see too many elderly and disabled people not able to get the care they need. We need to put the party politics aside and do what’s best for the hard working people and the people who worked hard all their life and now can’t afford their medicine.

5. Party Politics: It’s time to do what’s best for the people not the party.

Sally Doty, 52, state senator and attorney

Experience for the Senate District 39 seat: I am the incumbent and have served two terms for this district. The seniority, knowledge and experience I have as your senator are invaluable to Southwest Mississippi. I have built good relationships with all statewide office holders, our federal delegation, state agency heads, committee chairmen and other legislators to get bills passed and work to resolve issues for my constituents and communities. I have toured all major industries and the majority of small businesses in the district and understand the many needs and challenges facing them.

Because there is such little staff support in the Senate, my experience as an attorney is an added benefit. My background allows me to draft bills and understand far-reaching legal ramifications of complex legislation. Also, I have a very limited law practice that allows me to devote the majority of my time to the Senate position.

Finally, I have been active in this community for over 25 years; in local public schools as a volunteer and parent, in civic groups and projects as an active volunteer, with our healthcare providers as a mother and caregiver to my elderly parents, and finally, as an active member of First United Methodist Church.

Do you support a form of Medicaid reform or expansion?

I am so thankful for the quality of care provided by our local hospitals and healthcare community. I am convinced that Medicaid reform is necessary to keep community hospitals like ours on solid financial footing and free from any danger of closing. Thus, I support Medicaid reform, but only if certain requirements are met. First, work requirements for all able-bodied Medicaid recipients must be implemented. Second, recipients should have some “skin in the game” and pay a monthly premium or co-payment. Finally, there must be a sustainable way to finance the state portion of this coverage without a tax increase to Mississippians, and the Mississippi Cares Plan from the Mississippi Hospital Association makes that guarantee.

Do you support a gas tax increase to fund road improvements?

Mississippi has the third lowest gas tax in the nation, and is lower than any of our border states. I am open to a very modest increase in the gas tax because it is a true user fee. My requirement for voting for any increase would be to adjust the percentage of gas tax monies allocated to counties and cities to provide more revenue to them rather than MDOT.

Do you believe Mississippi teachers receive adequate pay not that they have received a one-time $1,500 raise and if not, what is your solution to increase their salaries.

I do not believe that our teachers are adequately paid. I believe there should be a steady, planned increase in teacher pay until their salaries reach the Southeastern average. I am a member of the Joint Legislative Budget Committee and have had the opportunity to study our state budget in depth. The state rainy day fund is funded with a 2 percent set aside each year and is approaching its statutory cap. I would support using a portion of the 2 percent set aside over the next few years to fund increased teacher pay.

What are the five biggest challenges for Mississippi ranked in order and how will the state overcome them?

The five biggest challenges to Mississippi are education, healthcare, infrastructure, workforce participation and taxes. I list education first, as it is said that the answer to every problem in Mississippi is — education. We must find methods to recruit and retain our teachers by paying them properly, allowing them to teach instead of test, and showing them the respect they deserve.

As a state with the highest rates of high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, and infant and maternal mortality, reforming Medicaid will be important and bring stability to rural hospitals.

Mississippi has one of the lowest workforce participation rates in the nation. Our community colleges are the key to changing that statistic and their workforce training efforts must be continued.

New funding is already in the works for infrastructure, with revenues from the state lottery dedicated to infrastructure and a portion of internet sales tax dedicated as well. Additionally, the percentages allocated from the gas tax to local communities and counties should be increased, and MDOT projects prioritized and handled differently.

Our government runs only on the monies that you the taxpayer provide. Keeping your hard-earned money in your pocket while providing basic governmental services is a balancing act that requires constant attention, restraint and the ability to say no.

Election information

Election Day for primaries is Aug. 6 with a runoff, if needed, set for Aug. 27. General Election Day is Nov. 5.

Absentee voting is underway through Aug. 3 at noon at the Lincoln County Circuit Clerk’s office, which is open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mail ballots can be requested, but the law requires they be returned by mail only by Aug. 5. Mailed ballots cannot be returned in person at the office, said Lincoln County Circuit Clerk Dustin Bairfield.

People may vote absentee for several reasons, including if they will be out of town on Election Day, if they are temporarily or permanently disabled or if they are 65 or older, Bairfield said.

To see sample primary ballots, visit www.lincolncircuitcourt.com and click on “elections.”