Stonewall — Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves sat down with the editorial board of The Meridian Star on Thursday to talk about issues facing Mississippi. After a few brief opening comments, Reeves took questions from the staff.
Reeves: On what he learned during the 2011 campaign
"What we heard repeatedly is that the number one priority in Mississippi has got to be job creation. We're not immune to the challenges that the national economic environment has put upon our state and virtually every other state. We're trying to dig out of it."
Meridian Star: What do you see as the biggest challenge as far as growing the economy in Mississippi?
TR: We have historically had challenges, but we've also had tremendous successes in the last 10 years.
If we can ever convince them (companies) to come to Mississippi, they tend to love what they see. That's everything from the work force to the quality of life, to the tax structure. We really have a good opportunity. That's why you're seeing more and more companies give us a second look. It was Nissan in 2002; it was Severstal in 2006; Toyota in 2007. That's not to mention a large number of others that have occurred.
MS: Does anyone know why it's hard to get them to take that first look?
TR: It's just the perception that many people in other parts of the country have of the state and the overall quality of the potential work force that they have.
Katrina changed the perception of Mississippi for a lot of people that paid attention. America saw the way in which our people reacted to Hurricane Katrina and as Gov. Barbour said, 'Businesses looked at us and said, 'Those are the kind of people I want working for me.'
Another challenge is our education attainment level. You'll hear me talk repeatedly ... the importance of improving the education attainment level of our citizens. It's vitally important. We think there's a multi-pronged approach to doing that.
One we have to invest in our current system. This year in the state Legislature, in the budget that passed we set our priorities, which is the educational system, we saw increases in funding for K-12 of almost $30 million. The first time in five years we saw a year over year increase in K-12 funding.
We saw increases in funding for our community colleges last year and we saw flat level funding for our institutions of higher learning which in effect, those three areas saw flat or increasing year over year expenditures. Everywhere else in state government was cut.