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Two want a seat in the House

A former tax assessor and collector for Lincoln County is seeking a higher office on the Democratic ticket as a state representative for District 53 covering Lincoln and Lawrence counties as well as Franklin, Jefferson Davis and Pike counties.

Her opponent, incumbent Vince Mangold, a Republican, is hoping for another shot at the House so he can put into practice what he’s learned in his first four-year term.

Goss and Mangold will be on ballots for the primary, but their race won’t be decided until the general election Nov 5.

The candidates for state Representative — listed below in alphabetical order — emailed their responses to five questions.

Rita Wilkinson Goss, 55, account manager at Gulf Guaranty Insurance

Experience for the House of Representatives District 53 seat: Holds an associate degree in data processing. Previously served as tax assessor/collector for Lincoln County where I managed 16 employees and two separate budgets for four years. I kept up with the bills each year that could or would possibly affect my job as tax assessor/collector. Being in this position has given me the experience in local government and the ability to work with the people. I have also worked as a teacher assistant at Mamie Martin Elementary School in past years and was a substitute teacher at West Lincoln Attendance Center so I know firsthand some of the issues that teachers go through.

Do you support a form of Medicaid reform or expansion?

Yes, I’m in favor of Medicaid expansion and reform. We have out-of-state companies that are managing our care plan. We need to keep our money in Mississippi. This would help our hospitals and provide more jobs.

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

We are in great need of road improvements, but I’m not sure that a gas tax is our only option. The Senate recently passed a lottery bill and those funds will be primarily allocated to infrastructure. I would like to research this idea further.

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, Mississippi can do better than that. We need to give our teachers the respect they deserve. Our priorities are out of order. We have a critical shortage in teachers and we should be competitive with our neighboring states.

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

Medicaid, rural hospitals closing and healthcare: These go together because our state is in need of Medicaid reform and expansion. The Mississippi Hospital Association has a proposed healthcare plan called “Mississippi Cares” and it seems like a good idea. It would benefit those that are in a “coverage gap” and help with Medicaid expansion.

Teachers/public Education: Mississippi has funding for these it’s just that we have our priorities wrong. Stop unnecessary state testing and allocate those funds to teachers and public education. I will support the ACT. Get rid of wasteful spending on ridiculous “SkoolAds”. When we support our teachers and public education, we are also supporting economic development. These go hand-in-hand for a better future and builds a stronger Mississippi.

Infrastructure: Our roads and bridges are crumbling. We have bills passed within the last year that will give us new funding for this — the lottery bill and the taxing of online purchases.

Mental health: We need to implement some exercises that build strong mental health in our schools and work places. When we take the excessive state testing out of the schools this will help remove stress and then add some teambuilding exercises.

Vince Mangold, 55, poultry and cattle farmer

Experience: Currently finishing my first term as the tepresentative of District 53. I’ve got a good knowledge of how things work as well as a good relationship with all the statewide officials. I’m currently serving on several committees, which keeps me in touch with many different aspects of our great state. I’ve learned a lot and want to learn more.

Do you support a form of Medicaid reform or expansion?

At this time, I would not support an expansion of Medicaid, but I would support Medicaid reform to get the cost of the program under control and improve health outcomes for those Mississippians on Medicaid. I’m a small government conservative and I believe expanding an already massive government program would overwhelm our state budget.

Currently the state portion of the Medicaid budget is over $900 million, when you include the federal funds Mississippi receives for Medicaid and other funding sources the total budget for Mississippi’s Medicaid program is over $6 billion. That is enough money to ensure the neediest Mississippians receive healthcare.

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

Last year during the special session the legislature passed several bills to address our infrastructure issues. One of the bills we passed was a use tax diversion for cities and counties, which is the first continuous stream of revenue dedicated to infrastructure for cities and counties in our state’s history.

The fairest way to implement a gas tax increase is to pair it with a decrease in another tax. I would be more open to a tax swap. The fairest taxes the government can raise from the people are use taxes, meaning that the people who use the service pay for the service.

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?

The legislature has passed two ongoing teacher pay raises over the last five years totaling $4,000, implemented the School Recognition Program which provides annual bonuses to teachers each year based on their school’s performance and funded yearly STEP salary increases for teachers based on their experience. These are all steps in the right direction to get our teachers the salaries they deserve and need.

Our economy is growing and state revenues are trending up. I would support incrementally increasing teacher salaries every other year within the confines of a balanced budget and without raising taxes.

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

The five biggest challenges facing Mississippi today are: 1) Continuing to grow our economy; 2) Ensuring all Mississippians who want a good paying job have a good paying job; 3) Building on our educational success over the last eight years; 4) Repairing our infrastructure; and 5) Making sure our young people stay here and start their lives.

Our biggest challenge will be to continue the economic growth we’ve experienced over the last few years. We’ve cut taxes for individuals and businesses and cut regulations to spur economic development in our state. It has been successful, as we’ve seen numerous businesses expand in Mississippi. If we have a booming economy that helps those people looking for quality jobs find quality jobs.

We challenged our teachers and students to do their best and they have answered by achieving the highest improvement levels in nearly all aspects in our state’s history. We cannot hit the brakes on educational attainment now.

Repairing our infrastructure will be crucial for future economic development and for quality of life of our citizens. Taxpayers should expect to ride on safe and passable roads and businesses should be able to get products without detouring.

Often I hear from young people that they are leaving our state for one reason or another. We need to make sure numbers 1-4 on this list are accomplished and maybe we can get our children and grandchildren to stay in Mississippi and make it better than what we leave to them.

Voting 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.”