Sen. Barrett voices support of key State of the State elements

Published 4:00 pm Friday, January 28, 2022

Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves delivered his 2022 State of the State address from the steps of the Capitol Tuesday afternoon.

During his speech, Reeves said investing in infrastructure, cutting income taxes, giving pay raises to teachers and increasing the state police presence in Jackson are among his 2022 priorities.

Republican Sen. Jason Barrett (D39), of Brookhaven, voiced his support of key elements of the governor’s statements.

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“My commitment remains to represent the voice of the people, support our educators and law enforcement officers, protect the unborn, improve local infrastructure, promote a skilled workforce, and help our families and small businesses keep more of their hard-earned money in their own pocket where it belongs,” Barrett said Wednesday. “Together, we can build a better Southwest Mississippi for the livelihood of our families and the future of our children.”

During his address, the Republican governor — now in his third year in the state’s highest office — called on the Republican-controlled Legislature to eliminate the state income tax, saying that would help Mississippi attract more jobs.

“We can put ourselves in a position to stand out,” Reeves said.

The House has already passed a bill that would phase out the income tax, reduce the tax on groceries and reduce the property taxes that people pay for car tags. That bill goes to the Senate, where leaders have not revealed their own plans for tax changes.

Mississippi teachers are among the lowest-paid in the nation, and Reeves said he supports a salary increase for them. The House and Senate are working on plans.

“Teachers in Mississippi did not, and will not, back down amid this unprecedented educational battle between a virus and a child’s right to learn,” Reeves said. “That is why we must give our teachers the pay raise they deserve.”

Reeves also called on legislators and the state Board of Education to prohibit schools from teaching that either the U.S. or Mississippi are “inherently racist.” State Superintendent of Education Carey Wright has said schools are not teaching that.

“We will not teach that your race determines your status as a victim or oppressor,” Reeves said.

Mississippi is receiving $1.8 billion in pandemic relief money from the federal government. Reeves said he agrees with Republican Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann about spending the money on “transformative” projects.

Reeves called on legislators to expand the presence of the state-funded Capitol Police in Jackson, which saw a high rate of homicides the past two years.

“If our state is to thrive, we need a capital city of order,” Reeves said, speaking just hours after two people were wounded in a shooting a few blocks from the Capitol. “Governed by laws, not abandoned to daily violence. We all have an interest in stopping this deadly cycle.”

In the Democratic response to the speech, Greenville Mayor Errick Simmons said members of his party support pay raises for teachers, economic development in parts of the state that have been ignored and expansion of Medicaid. Reeves has opposed expanding Medicaid to people who work low-wage jobs that don’t provide insurance.

“Mississippi families desperately need access to affordable, quality healthcare,” Simmons said.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.