JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) -In the first Lt. Governor debate, Republican Delbert Hosemann worked to prove that his time as Secretary of State has prepared him for the powerful role of Lt. Governor. Meanwhile Democrat Representative Jay Hughes argues his life experiences have prepared him.
Raising teacher pay is an issue where the two agree. But both added in broader education issues while answering.
“We need better pay for everyone that’s in the school system, not just teachers. and we need to fund the classrooms instead of the cronies and the testing companies," said Jay Hughes. "And last but not least we need a new Superintendent of Education.”
Hughes argues it’s not just teacher pay and respect but that all of the state employees should be considered who haven’t had a raise in 11 years.
“It will be a meaningful raise every single year," said Delbert Hosemann. "And I’m not held up by the regional average. The way to do this is to make sure no teacher makes a decision on whether to teach in Mississippi’s public schools based on economics. So, our starting salaries have to be equal to or greater than everybody else’s..”
Hosemann also noted he’d like to see all of the state’s pre-K collaboraties funded so that students will have an earlier start.
On infrastructure, Hughes wants to redirect online sales tax revenue.
“The biggest revenue gain that we had in the state last year was sales tax on people’s internet purchases,' said Hughes. "I introduced a bill that said send those sales tax, 18.5 percent back to every county they come from and let the supervisors there deal with the bridges and infrastructure there. That’s what needs to be happening. We need to be giving it back instead of keeping it here in a general fund.”
Hosemann also wants to give more decision-making to the counties.
“What I’m going to propose is a local option use tax," Hosemann noted. "That means that every county will be able to determine whether or not they want to raise tax on diesel or gasoline, either one.”
Another question was whether the state should accept money available to expand Medicaid through the Affordable Care Act.
“We need to do that because we shouldn’t be having a death sentence on someone that has a treatable condition," said Hughes. "And these are people that are paying their part. These are working people. So, it’s very important that we cover it and make sure we cover it because otherwise the community, the city, the state pays the difference for it.”
“Spend this time finding out if this thing is Constitutional to look at every option," Hosemann explained. "It’s a 6 billion dollar decision, I don’t need to make it laissez-faire. I want to make sure we do it right the first time. We will look at expanding our health care and cutting the costs down.”
The candidates were asked whether Mississippi should remove the Confederate battle emblem from the state flag. Both said if the flag is changed, it should be done by a statewide vote and not by the Legislature. But when asked if the current flag hurts economic development, Hughes said it does. Hosemann disagreed. He doesn’t think it’s a factor in decision making for potential businesses considering locating in Mississippi.
They both also expressed a desire to see more transparency in the state Senate.