Reeves promotes economy, education at luncheon

Published 11:00 pm Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Fiscal government, a fair tax code and improving education attainment levels are three primary areas Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves believes can make Mississippi economically sustainable for the long-range future.

Reeves spoke Wednesday during the Vicksburg-Warren County Chamber of Commerce monthly luncheon and updated attendees on progress being made by the state, specifically in education and the state economy.

He focused a great deal on education, noting his appearance earlier in the day at Dana Road Elementary School where he read to students.

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Reeves pointed out that since Mississippi implemented the third grade literacy requirement, students have become more proficient in reading. He noted that will reduce the dropout rate and in the long-term lead to more job creation.

An example is the Vicksburg-Warren School District, which only had five retentions among 674 third grade students.

“We may not see the benefits of that for another ten years,” Reeves pointed out. “But we need to spend less time apologizing and more time bragging about what is happening in Mississippi classrooms.”

Reeves pointed out that state graduation rates have steadily increased by 10 percent, while the national average has leveled off, which has put Mississippi near the national average of 82 percent.

“We have spent $400 million more on public education than we did six years ago,” Reeves pointed out.

He added that it’s not just about spending more money, but education reforms the state has implemented will also improve public schools. He noted school district consolidation and school districts appointing superintendents rather than electing superintendents, a new law that will take effect in 2019.

A fair and flat tax code is also beneficial to business in Mississippi, according to Reeves. Revamping the antiquated tax code has made Mississippi businesses more competitive, particularly eliminating the corporate franchise tax and investment tax.

“Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee and Louisiana do not have this tax,” Reeves said. “It put Mississippi at a competitive disadvantage, not only globally, but in the region.”

He said the role of government is not to create jobs, but to “create an environment for job creation in the private sector.”

“Our No. 1 priority, I believe, is better and higher paying jobs for Mississippians,” Reeves said, which means allowing legislation in the state legislature that will promote job creation.

As leader of the state senate, Reeves said he believes in fiscal responsibility — a balanced budget.

“That means not allowing the state debt to increase,” said Reeves, who added that the state will pay off $300 million in debt this year.

He is optimistic about the eight percent revenue growth projections in the first two months of the 2018 fiscal year, “but that’s not a trend.” He wants to wait through the first quarter before getting overly excited.

“I’m encouraged by it, but I’m taking a wait and see approach,” Reeves said.

Reeves noted other matters the state legislature will have to deal with in the upcoming session are Medicaid and the public school funding formula.

“I believe we need a student centered formula that focuses on what’s best for kids and not what’s best for the adults,” Reeves said.