Two seek spot as House District 55 representative

Published 12:44 am Saturday, October 29, 2011

Two candidates are seeking to represent House District 55 in the Mississippi Legislature. They are Democrat George Flaggs, 58, the incumbent, and Sam Smith, 47, a Republican.

1. Mississippi’s contribution to the Medicaid program totaled $619 million in fiscal 2011 and could increase by 2020 when more people will become eligible, in keeping with mandates spelled out in health care reforms passed by Congress in 2009. Currently, 22 percent of the state’s 2.9 million qualify for Medicaid. How should the state balance its health care spending with other needs?

Flaggs: I truly believe that the State of Mississippi needs to reform the Medicaid system by looking at eligibility and its fee for services pay structure. If we reform the system and prioritize the needs of the state, starting with health care, then we can meet the mandate that is spelled out in the health care reform passed by Congress in 2009.

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Smith: Hard decisions will have to be made by Mississippi in the next few years. Currently there are roughly 600,000 people in this state on Medicaid. Next year that number will increase to 1,000,000. We have to understand that this increase is federally mandated. In Mississippi 25 cents out of every dollar goes to Medicaid. Without a doubt certain services and programs will have to be cut unless we raise taxes. I’m against raising taxes. Washington created this problem with “Obamacare.” Washington needs to help solve it.

2. State lawmakers passed a $5.5 billion budget for the current fiscal year. In it, elementary and secondary education were funded at about the same amount as last year. State income taxes rates remained level, as did state employees’ salaries. Do you agree or disagree with the way funds were arranged?

Flaggs: No, I disagree with the way the funding was arranged for elementary and secondary education in the previous years. In those years the State of Mississippi did not keep its commitment to meeting the education needs of the state by not adequately funding education.

Smith: I personally feel that the Mississippi budget is in line. I do not think that any cuts should be made to education. Education is the key to our state’s economic future. Industry will not be attracted to our state if we have an uneducated work force. If anything, we should increase spending in education and make sure it’s going where it is needed, the classroom and not to overpaid administrators. One thing I must say, we need to move from an entitlement society to an opportunity society.