Mississippi governor: Time to consider starting a lottery

Published 6:14 pm Tuesday, January 17, 2017


The Associated Press


JACKSON — Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant is telling lawmakers it might be time to start a state lottery.

The Republican said in his State address Tuesday that allowing the games of chance would be a way to generate revenue without raising taxes. He said Arkansas received $80 million from its lottery last budget year — some it from tickets bought by Mississippi residents.

“When we see traffic crowded on the Mississippi River bridge taking revenue to our neighboring state, it may be time to face a new reality,” Bryant said, according to his prepared text. “We can no longer contain the people’s desire for a lottery, we can only force them to travel.”

Bryant, 62, began his career as a deputy sheriff and is starting his sixth year as governor. He said he will support “Blue Lives Matter” legislation. At least four bills would strengthen the penalties for attacks on law enforcement officers. Bryant mentioned the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics agent Lee Tartt, who was killed and three other officers were wounded in a February 2016 shootout during a standoff with a man holed up in a house near Iuka.

“Across our nation, law enforcement is under attack,” Bryant said. “Here in Mississippi, most of our citizens continue to support and respect the men and women who wear the badge and protect and serve.”

As he has in many other speeches, Bryant bragged on job creation, including the development of a Continental Tire manufacturing plant that is being built outside Jackson and a Raytheon plant that is being developed in Meridian to build training jets.

He said his top priority for his remaining three years in office will be to improve Mississippi’s struggling foster care program. He also called on lawmakers to be frugal with the budget, including setting aside money to replenish the rainy day fund that provides a financial buffer when the state economy lags. Bryant has already cut the $6.4 billion budget twice since the current fiscal year started July 1.

Bryant recommended starting a Mississippi Faith-Based and Community Advisory Council to help community organizations.

He also asked lawmakers to eliminate at least 16 existing state boards that haven’t met in more than a year, but he didn’t name them.

Bryant noted that his wife, Deborah, could not attend the State of the State address because she was feeling under the weather.

“I can only assume that she is sick of hearing me make speeches,” he deadpanned.