Mississippi Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves says the state can hold its head high when it comes to job and economic growth, and he told a Southaven audience he had the facts and figures to prove it.
Reeves, the featured speaker for the Southaven Chamber of Commerce’s Quarterly Luncheon, highlighted several areas where growth in the Magnolia State has been seen.
Reeves pointed out that his office seeks to create an environment for job creation and growth in Mississippi, adding that each bill enacted under his watch in the state Legislature has passed that litmus test.
“In every single bill, the question we ask is if it is going to create that environment which encourages private sector job growth,” Reeves said. “If the answer is ‘yes,’ we do everything we can to make sure the bill passes. If the answer is ‘no,’ we do everything we can to make sure that bill dies.”
Reeves pointed out that Mississippi’s most recent unemployment rate of 4.3 percent is just slightly above the national jobless rate of 4.1 percent, adding the state figure is the lowest Mississippi rate on record.
“We have a lot of jobs looking for people,” Reeves said.
The lieutenant governor detailed three areas he believed are key to long-term economic growth for a community, county, or the state as a whole.
The areas are a fiscally responsible government, a fair and flat tax code, and an improving education attainment level.
“We now have a budget in Mississippi that truly only spends recurring revenue over current expenses,” Reeves said. “We have $317 million set aside in our rainy day fund, almost six percent of our annual operating budget. Starting July 1, we’re only appropriating 98 percent of expected revenue.”
Reeves said a fair and flat tax code would encourage economic development for the state and pointed out the largest tax cut in state history took place three years ago when the three-percent individual income tax bracket was eliminated and the corporate franchise tax was eliminated.
“Why is this important to DeSoto County?” Reeves asked. “Before, we were put at a competitive disadvantage because all of the states around us didn’t have a corporate franchise tax, but we did have one.”
Regarding education, Reeves said the state will be spending nearly $400 million more in the upcoming fiscal year for education than was spent in fiscal year 2011.
“We’re never going to spend enough, and that’s not enough,” added Reeves. “It is particularly important, especially in high-growth districts.”
He also highlighted first-ever investments for pre-kindergarten, improved reading test scores and graduation rates.
“Last year, the national graduation average was 83.2 percent,” Reeves said. “Mississippi’s high school graduation rate was 82.5 percent and in DeSoto County it is just under 90 percent. We’re less than one percent below the national average.”
Bob Bakken is Staff Writer for the DeSoto Times-Tribune.