At a press conference this afternoon- which is becoming a pretty regular event these days- the Mississippi Republican Party welcomed two new members to the party. Representatives Russ Nowell of Louisville and Margaret Rogers of New Albany formally made the switch and gave Republicans number 52 and 53 in the House of Representatives.
Thank you Speaker McCoy and Governor Bryant, and thanks to you in the Legislature for your warm
General Freeman is with us tonight. While we don’t have as many of our National Guard in harm’s way
as we have in past years, we should never forget to be thankful for their sacrifice and the sacrifice of
others in uniform – law enforcement, fire fighters, corrections and conservation officers, EMTs. Please
join me in a moment of silent prayer for those men and women and their safety and success.
This is the eighth and final time Marsha and I will appear on this podium for me to deliver my State of the
When Marsha and I married, 39 years ago, I knew I had outmarried
myself. Over the last seven years you
and the people of Mississippi have recognized that fact, too. She not only has joined me at each of these
occasions, she also has been part of the work I have tried to do for our state, especially in the grueling
weeks and months after Katrina.
As I composed this last State of the State address I couldn’t help but think how much has changed in these
seven years. To start with, I did the speech on my new iPad. In 2004, iPad is what Marsha called what I
did to my weight during Christmas.
Reflecting back, it was essential that state government make a number of significant changes when I stood
up here the first time in January 2004.
The state budget was in awful shape with an enormous shortfall, and we had about $3 million of
unallocated monies in our Rainy Day Fund; lawsuit abuse had created a health care crisis in our state, and
every small business in Mississippi was one lawsuit away from bankruptcy; despite a surging drug
epidemic, the drug enforcement budget had been cut by almost 40 percent; and though the national
recession had been over for more than two years, the need for job creation was first on the minds of nearly
Mr. Speaker, I vividly remember the first time we ever visited. You told me that campaigning for reelection
in 2003 you had gone down a country road and, at each of three houses in a row, someone had
lost his job that year.
Legislators, I applaud you and your predecessors on the actions you took to deal with these and other
problems. It wasn’t easy or always pretty. Sometimes we battled, but we accomplished a lot, together.
While it took twoplus
years, we got our budget back to where the state spent no more than it received in
annual revenue, and we quit raiding balances in special funds. We replenished the Rainy Day Fund to its
statutory limit of $375 million and created other reserves to cover potential federal liability. And we did
it without raising anybody’s taxes.
Despite the worst recession in generations and a steep drop in revenue, we’ve kept our budget balanced by
cutting spending and without depleting all our reserves. If you adopt my budget recommendation for next
year, FY 12, the new governor and legislature who follow us will have some $200 million left in reserves
for FY 13, plus our school districts have more than $450 million in their reserve funds.
I realize this is an election year, and every penny of appropriated spending has a constituency. You will
get pressure to spend more for this and spend more for that.
As Governor I have cut the budget by a total of about $700 million in just the last two years. Just as our
constituents have cut back, they expect state government to cut back. They know the alternative is raising
taxes, because government has no money except what it takes from taxpayers. The people of Mississippi
deserve to keep more of what they earn, and we owe it to the people of Mississippi not to raise taxes and
to control spending.
Not only do I urge you not to consider tax increases this year, I implore you to keep spending at a level
this year that protects more of our reserves for next year. That is the way to stop any tax increases in
Remember, what we have accomplished in controlling spending over seven years can be lost in only one
Our first year you passed and I signed the most comprehensive tort reform law in the country, and it
worked. Medical liability premiums have declined by 61 percent, and the number of medical liability
cases filed against Mississippi physicians fell 90 percent within one year of the law’s going into effect.
Tort reform also has been a major factor in economic growth and job creation.
Starting that first year, we implemented significant, successful changes to spur the creation of more,
higher paying jobs for our people. We reorganized the Development Authority, gave it outstanding new
leadership and began our Momentum Mississippi campaign. MDA’s results are striking. This team has
supported businesses that created 64,666 jobs in this state.
We created our new Department of Employment Security and expanded it to take over workforce
development and job training. The State Workforce Investment Board was established, and the
Workforce Enhancement Training or WET Fund came into existence through a diversion of the
unemployment insurance tax, a tax you also cut by 25 percent that same year.
Now, every year, the WET fund puts about $20 million into workforce development and skills training at
our 15 community colleges, which do a great job. A study of graduates of WET fund financed programs
show they make $4,300 more per year than before that training, and our improved, skilled workforce has
been a reason companies like Toyota, GE Aviation, PACCAR, Severstal and a long list of very hightech
energy companies have come to Mississippi.
Coupled with workforce quality, the State has focused on attracting advanced manufacturing with
advanced materials. We’ve targeted aerospace, automotive and energy, as well as service sectors. We’ve
also beefed up our efforts to help existing businesses.
The results include a 27percent
increase in personal per capita income despite the recession. This is the
15 th highest increase in the country over this sixyear
While we’re not immune to the effects of the national recession, we’ve fared better in other
measurements, too. For instance, while our unemployment percentage has increased, it has done so at a
rate about half as great as the nation as a whole.
In law enforcement, we have fought the scourge of illegal narcotics with a vengeance. In 2005 you
passed laws to reduce the production and use of crystal methamphetamine. When the criminals learned
how to get around those laws, you made the necessary changes, and they are working. In the first six
months of this fiscal year – July 1 to December 31, 2010 – 68 percent fewer meth labs have been
reported; meth arrests are down 62 percent; the number of drugendangered
children has fallen 76 percent.
Congratulations to the Bureau of Narcotics, the Department of Public Safety, and to you for making the
needed legislative changes.
To keep law enforcement where we want it, I’m announcing tonight that I will dedicate $7.3 million of
the governor’s discretionary funds to hold a troopers’ school this calendar year. If you will join me in
moving motor carrier enforcement from MDOT to the Department of Public Safety, freeing up 40 current
highway patrolmen, that would mean nearly 100 more state troopers on the road.
Finally, I am proud that Mississippi cast the highest percentage of its vote of any state in favor of the
Defense of Marriage Act, defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman; and that in
2004, my first year, after we worked together to enact comprehensive prolife
United for Life, a national righttolife
organization, named Mississippi “the safest state in America for an
Yes, you have accomplished a lot. Positive change has been the norm, and Mississippi, despite the global
recession, is a better place in so many ways than it was seven years ago.
Even with this progress, we all know there’s more to be done. While state government can’t eliminate
many effects of the national recession, we can improve the way we do things, and, in turn, improve the
lives of our citizens, the education of our children and the prospects for our employers and employees.
Last week I announced the Division of Medicaid appears to be on track to run a surplus of $4050
this fiscal year, probably because of less utilization than projected.
Congratulations to the Division of Medicaid for an outstanding job of managing this enormous program
and controlling its mammoth costs.
Let me remind you what a change that represents. When I became Governor, Medicaid costs were
skyrocketing. System controls were so weak, that the last year before I entered office, Medicaid spent $79
million of state funds and didn’t even enter the cost on its books. Many of you will remember the Special
Session we held to clean up that mess.
I’m pleased to tell you and the people of Mississippi that today our state Medicaid program is run with
compassion and efficiency for its beneficiaries and their providers and for the people who pay for it: the
taxpayers. The federal authorities reported last year that Mississippi’s Medicaid error rate is 3.47 percent,
the fourth lowest in the country. The national error rate is more than twice as high.
Because of this surplus I have instructed the Division of Medicaid to exercise its authority under state law
to use a portion of this FY11 surplus to create 7,800 additional slots for eligible Medicaid beneficiaries to
care. Currently we have a waiting list of 6,100 beneficiaries who are
waiting to be provided care in their homes and their communities. I expect the entire 7,800 allocation to
be filled this fiscal year.
Both Senator Hob Bryan and Representative Steve Holland, who chair the Senate and House Public
Health Committees, respectively, are outspoken proponents of increased home and community based care
for people on Medicaid. Both are Democrats, but I appreciate our agreement and our ability to work
together for this purpose.
The increase in the number of home and community care slots will lead to a broader, stronger
infrastructure to deliver such services across the state that, in the long run, will provide better healthcare
at lower cost. This will be a blessing to both the beneficiaries who want to, can and should be receiving
care and services at home and in their communities . . . and to the taxpayers.
Last week you started this session by funding a loan for Stion, a cuttingedge,
thin film solar panels, which will build these panels in Hattiesburg, investing $500 million and employing
1,000 people within six years. I applaud committee chairs Senator Dean Kirby and Representative Percy
Watson on that. We all know a big job creation project is a great way to start a session.
The national recession notwithstanding, job creation will pick up in our state this year. As evidence of
that, in the first three quarters of 2010, Mississippi saw more new jobs and investment than were
announced in all of 2009. Toyota and its suppliers have stepped up hiring. GE Aviation, EADS and
PACCAR are adding employees, while new companies like Twin Creek Technologies in Southaven and
Schulz in Tunica will be operational this year. Nissan, which had an outstanding year in 2010, is also
ramping up, including introduction of its new light commercial vehicle.
Agriculture had a tremendous year last year. Because farming does not directly employ that many people,
some lose sight of how large and important a part it plays in our economy.
In 2010 total value of our crops, including poultry and timber, was nearly $7 billion, a record. And
commodity prices are promising for this year. We can’t forget how important agriculture and forest
products are to our State and communities.
I mention these things because our goal has to be to grow our economy faster than the nation as a whole,
and we can do it. We have to focus on our advantages: low taxes, a friendly business climate, rational
regulation, abundant natural resources and especially a first rate, affordable work force. And we’re
committed to continuous improvement of that great workforce.
Our four research universities have become more effective engines of economic growth. All four have a
lot to offer. Mississippi State’s Center for Advanced Vehicular Studies and Raspet Flight Center; the ECenter
at Jackson State; the Polymer Institute at USM; and the Center for Manufacturing Excellence at
Ole Miss are obvious resources that major and small employers find terrifically useful. And companies
like SemiSouth in Starkville, FNC in Oxford and WarmKraft in Taylorsville spun off from our research
Further, our community colleges have been and remain critical in the enormous and continuing
improvement of skills in our workforce. Toyota said the main reason it chose Mississippi for its newest
assembly plant, the most sought after economic development project in the country that year, was the
quality of our workforce.
And I remember well when the Vice Chairman of General Electric, one of the biggest manufacturers in
the world, announced GE Aviation would locate a facility to make composite jet engine fan blades and
assembles in Batesville. He said, “This is the most sophisticated manufacturing General Electric does
anywhere in the world, and we’re going to do it in North Mississippi.” What a tribute to our workforce!
percent of our state’s kids go to public schools. To have the kind of workforce to succeed in
the 21 st century, we start in K12.
Our schools are getting better. Our last NAEP scores were up more than the national average, and the
rate is going down. But that improvement is not enough.
We need to make dual enrollment easier and more common. The students can learn more, and their
parents will save money as college credits are earned while in high school.
In constrained budget times we must put more resources into the classroom and reduce what is spent on
administration. We must continue to focus on improving the quality of teachers coming out of our
colleges of education, while simultaneously using technology more in teaching our kids.
Finally, because competition is good in every sphere, I urge you to reform Charter School law so more
children can benefit.
With excellence in education we will keep pushing for job creation. Hopefully, the federal government
will start making it easier for us, instead of harder.
Congress’ passage in the lameduck
session of an extension of the Bush tax cuts removes a critical
obstacle to economic growth. For two years the threat that the President and the Majority in Congress
would let the largest tax increase in history go into effect this month was an enormous cloud that retarded
investment and job creation. Now it’s gone.
We still have federal policies that stifle economic growth: If the Obama Administration’s health care
mandates actually go into effect, employers don’t know what their costs and responsibilities will be, so it
impedes hiring; uncertainty about the DoddFrank
financial services law and its implementation stymies
investment; and the gigantic deficits and resulting purchases of trillions in US treasuries by the Fed mean
all that money can’t go into financing private sector projects.
More obvious every day, the Obama Administration’s energy policies are driving up the cost of energy.
Gasoline costs more than three dollars a gallon because the administration’s energy policy can be stated in
one sentence: Increase the cost of energy so people will use less of it.
Don’t take my word for it. Remember the President said in 2008 that his capandtrade
necessarily cause electricity prices to skyrocket, and Energy Secretary Chu said the country needed for
our gasoline prices to increase to what they are in Europe. That’s six to nine dollars a gallon! Sunday’s
Clarion Ledger includes a column by Dr. Shughart at Ole Miss that catalogues example after example of
the Environmental Protection Agency’s antienergy
efforts, all of which drive up energy costs.
Well, we don’t need higher fuel prices in Mississippi; but other than litigation and encouraging our
Congressional delegation, we can’t change federal energy policy; even when it closes down oil and gas
production in the Gulf and costs thousands of jobs in the Gulf states.
But we can continue to make Mississippi an energyreliable
state. We have an energy policy, and it’s
“more American energy.” We promote all forms of energy that can compete in the market place
successfully; all of the above plus conservation and efficiency.
More American energy means more energy security and less of our money going for foreign oil, often
sold by countries that don’t like us. Abundant, affordable energy will help American business, especially
manufacturing, stay competitive in the global marketplace. And, of course, that means more jobs and a
better quality of life for Americans.
The current federal policy of more expensive energy so people use less energy is not an energy policy. It
is an environmental policy; one that hurts the economy, blocks job creation and ultimately reduces
standards of living in America.
We can’t repeal that bad policy yet, but in Mississippi we’ll continue our state policies that generate
higher skilled, better paying jobs while making us an energyreliable
Your support in that has been and remains indispensable. It contributed to Mississippi Power’s new $2.5
plant in Kemper County; Entergy’s $500 million investment to increase output at Grand
Gulf Nuclear Station by 13 percent, and SMEPA’s $500 million in upgrades. Chevron continues to invest
hundreds of millions at Pascagoula, its largest refinery in the U.S.; next door to Chevron, Gulf LNG is
half way finished with its $1plus
billion liquefied natural gas terminal. Denbury’s tertiary recovery
projects have helped increase the state’s oil production. Bluefire has begun construction of a cellulosic
ethanol plant in Fulton, and Enerkem has plans to build a wastetoliquid
transportation fuels facility in
Pontotoc. Ergon and Bunge’s $100 million ethanol plant in Vicksburg is fully operational.
This quarter Twin Creeks’ facility in Senatobia will begin manufacturing solar panels. Stion’s operations
will begin this year, and Soladigm’s ultrahigh
tech dynamic window plant in Olive Branch will be in
production this year as well.
Finally, we’re optimistic that Kior soon will be breaking ground in Columbus for its first biocrude
refinery, and Rentech has purchased a site for its coal to liquid motor fuels facility in Natchez.
These projects are generating more than $10 billion in capital investments in our state and creating
thousands of jobs. Many of these projects will result in new markets and higher prices for Mississippi
farm and timber products and our lignite coal.
Critically, many will reduce energy use or reduce emissions. In fact, the Mississippi Power Kemper
County plant is the first commercial scale coalfired
power plant in the U.S. with carbon capture and
sequestration. Its emissions will be the equivalent of a natural gas fired facility.
Tourism is and will remain a large employer in Mississippi and a big piece of our economy. Further,
tourism helps our image.
While Mississippi has suffered from a negative image all my life, people who actually visit here almost
always go home with a better impression and a positive experience.
In 2007 I recommended to you that we build a Civil Rights Museum in our state. The Civil Rights
struggle is an important part of our history, and millions of people are interested in learning more about it.
People from around the world would flock to see the museum and learn about the movement.
A commission headed by former Supreme Court Justice Reuben Anderson and former federal judge
Charles Pickering developed a design and a plan. The proposal went sideways because of a disagreement
about where the museum should be located.
Recently I’ve talked with Justice Anderson and former Governor William Winter, and they have
recommended a solution to me. I’m presenting it tonight because this is the year to get this museum
going. It is the 50 th Anniversary of the Freedom Riders and the 150 th Anniversary of the start of the Civil
Governor Winter and Justice Anderson recommended we build the Civil Rights Museum adjacent to the
proposed Mississippi History Museum at the existing site in downtown Jackson.
I urge you to move this museum forward as an appropriate way to do justice to the Civil Rights
Movement and to stand as a monument of remembrance and reconciliation.
As I close I want to return to Mississippi’s leading the nation out of the recession.
We are well prepared to make a major leap forward. We saw it in the surge that was cut off by the
national recession in 2008. This period was marked by increasing employment, rising incomes, replacing
jobs with higher skilled, better paying jobs.
We can get back on that roll. We have advantages over other states, but what we need most is attitude.
And we showed that “cando”
attitude after Katrina.
When the Coast got obliterated by the worst natural disaster in American history and hurricane force
winds extended 240 miles north up to West Point, our people didn’t whine or mope. They weren’t
looking for somebody to blame.
No, Mississippians proved themselves to be strong, resilient, selfreliant
people. They got knocked flat,
but got right back up and went to work; went to work helping their neighbors as well as themselves.
And the country and the world noticed. I can’t tell you how many times after the storm other governors,
or senators, or CEOs told me, “Haley, you’ve got to be proud of your people.” And, of course, I was.
You know, it is true that the Lord works in mysterious ways. Today I realize the response of our people
to Katrina and its devastation has done more to help the image of Mississippi than anything else that’s
happened in my lifetime.
People saw our state and our people in a new light. They gave us a chance to compete for their business,
their vacations, their expansions. That got us on a roll.
Now we’ve got to get back on that roll. The country and world have a new image of our state. They’re
prepared to give us a chance, to let us compete.
So it is up to us to meet the challenge; no, the opportunity. If we grasp this opportunity, it will propel
Mississippi to our rightful place as a leading, thriving state in the fastest growing section of the country.
It was once said, “Mississippi is the most underestimated place in the country, and Mississippians are the
most underestimated people.”
Well, today, after Katrina, we’ve learned to quit underestimating ourselves. We’ve proven to the world
what Mississippians are made of. And the world likes what it saw … and sees.
Now it is up to us to seize this moment.
The stakes are simple but huge: In this decade Mississippi mothers and grandmothers can see their
children and grandchildren choosing to stay in Mississippi because Mississippi is the best place to build a
successful career, to have the most opportunities and to enjoy this sweet land’s quality of life. That’s the
dream of every mother and grandmother, and with the right attitude and hard work, we can make it
Thank you for all you have done to change our state for the better. Let’s keep moving forward together.
God bless you and God bless America.
Gov. Haley R. Barbour called state Rep. Scott Bounds a “reliable conservative who votes very much in line with the views of people that he represents” as he welcomed the Democrat from Philadelphia to the Republican Party on Monday at a press conference in Jackson.
As the switch was formally announced at Republican Party headquarters downtown, Bounds was flanked by his family – including his father Buck, a former Democrat state representative – and a throng of elected Republican officials such as the lieutenant governor and U.S. Rep. Gregg Harper.
State Rep. Billy Nicholson of Little Rock has changed parties and is now a Republican rather than a Democrat, the Mississippi Republican Party announced Wednesday.
Nicholson, 61, has served in the Mississippi State House of Representatives since 2000. With Nicholson’s switch, there are now 49 Republicans and 73 Democrats in the House.