JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Governor Tate Reeves delivered his State of the State address Tuesday afternoon.
In his first State of the State address last year, Reeves focused on education reform, safer prisons, and less red tape for people who want to do business in Mississippi.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the speech happened outdoors, on the steps of the Mississippi State Capitol, without an in-person audience.
He opened by discussing the many challenges that have come in the past year with tornadoes, hurricanes and of course the pandemic, and said Mississippi is “unconquerable.”
“In this year of crisis and confusion, there has been a solid foundation. It is the Mississippi spirit that binds all of us together. This is not a state of people who have cowered in the face of adversity.”
He also talked about Mississippi never “shutting down” and said Mississippi’s economy actually grew from last year.
“That’s not just because of an open economy. It’s because Mississippians don’t want welfare, they want to work. They recognize the pride and dignity that comes with it, and they’ve been eager to return when given the opportunity.”
He also discussed the need to still improve. He wants Mississippi to not compete with itself, but with Florida, Georgia, Tennessee and Texas to be better in terms of its workforce.
“We can get in the ring with anybody, and we can leave with more jobs and higher wages. Mississippians can bring more skill and dedication to any project than anyone else, anywhere in the world. We work harder than anyone. Why shouldn’t we get the best jobs, the best expansions, and best headquarters?”
He called for a need to transform the state’s economy “in a smart way” and attract better jobs and wages.
“We don’t need Mississippians to be stuck in low-paying jobs. We want them to embark on careers with good pay and freedom. The best way to accomplish that is to help lift young Mississippians up--give them access to training that puts them in a position to succeed.”
Reeves says Mississippi has made the most significant improvements in education and announced his support for teacher pay raises.
“I’ll be eager to sign any raise that the legislature can send me. Our teachers have earned it. It’s the right way to invest.”
He also mentioned the coronavirus vaccine rollout and how Mississippi is “operating at peak capacity.”
“I promise that we will smash every roadblock. We will get this done as safely and quickly as we possibly can, and allow people to protect themselves from the virus. It is my most immediate priority, and I assure you it has my full attention.”
As a personal goal, he said he wants to “cultivate more empty” across the state and promote love, minutes after he called out “the far left” for calling for “gifts from the government.”
“Above all we have to understand that every Mississippian--every American--is on the same team. We all want to be treated with grace. And we’re all made in the image of a perfect God. So, my goal is to act like it.”
Afterward, Mississippi Senate Democratic Leader Derrick T. Simmons gave his response to the speech.
Simmons focused on the pandemic and how its impacted Mississippi.
“Tens of thousands of Mississippians have been laid off during the pandemic. These historic job losses have drained our state’s unemployment trust fund and left families struggling to buy groceries and other basic necessities. We must provide support to individuals who have found themselves out of work through no fault of their own,” Simmons said.
Simmons also spoke of the new state flag, and he thanked Mississippi’s young people who demanded change to get it done.
“Mississippi’s young people know that while a new state flag is a powerful and necessary step toward the future, it is only a step. Mississippi must live into the promises it has made to provide a great education to all of its students and a competitive salary for all of its teachers. We are not there yet.”
He also criticized Republican policies that he says have, “left out hospitals hanging by a thread.”
Simmons called for Reeves to expand Medicaid or come up with an alternative.