• 57°

Health care, education, incentives on agenda

JACKSON (AP) — With the Mississippi legislative session just beginning, officials are starting to reveal their public policy wish lists, including proposals to increase teacher pay and improve the availability of health care services.

The Senate Democratic Caucus chairman, Derrick Simmons of Greenville, repeated last week what he and many other Democrats have said for years — that Mississippi should expand Medicaid to cover tens of thousands of people who earn modest salaries and don’t receive health insurance through their jobs. Expansion is optional under the 2010 health care overhaul signed by then-President Barack Obama, and Mississippi is one of 12 states that have not chosen the option.

The federal government pays most of the Medicaid tab, and Democrats say enrolling more people would boost Mississippi’s economy by supporting hospitals and other health care providers.

Expansion is a longshot, though, because Republican Gov. Tate Reeves and Republicans who control the state House and Senate have long said that they believe it could become a budget buster, and they don’t want to put more people on a government program.

Republican Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann has released more details about his legislative agenda than many others in the Capitol, and a teacher pay raise tops his list.

Hosemann also told reporters last week that he wants Mississippi to revise the tax breaks and other incentives it uses to attract new businesses. Hosemann said the Senate will propose an incentive program called MFLEX — think, Mississippi and flexible.

He said the state needs to eliminate some rarely used incentives and create simpler rules that are easy to understand.

“If you’re moving a company with 100 employees to Mississippi, you can sit at your desk and calculate what the salaries are, how much it’s going to cost you and (get) an exact quote of what your benefits will be,” Hosemann said.

The MFLEX proposal would require companies that receive incentives to provide health insurance for their employees. Those offering higher salaries would get more favorable treatment from the state. And the companies would be required to file annual reports so people could know whether the companies are fulfilling the promises they made to the state, Hosemann said.

Hosemann’s legislative wish list this year also includes creating a state tourism agency. He wants to break tourism promotion away from the Mississippi Development Authority, the agency that pushes for job creation. It’s unclear whether his idea will get support from House leaders or from Reeves.

The governor has said little about his own legislative agenda. When he released his state budget proposals in November, Reeves did not include a teacher pay raise, but he said he would ask legislators to put $3 million into a “patriotic education fund.”

“Across the country, young children have suffered from indoctrination in far-left socialist teachings that emphasize America’s shortcomings over the exceptional achievements of this country. Revisionist history has aimed to tear down American institutions, and it is poisoning a generation,” Reeves’ budget  document said.

During a Senate Education Committee hearing last week, Democratic Sen. David Blount of Jackson quoted that document and asked state Superintendent of Education Carey Wright whether such indoctrination is happening in Mississippi schools.

“Let me put it this way: That’s not in our standards to be taught,” Wright said.

Wright said if she were to receive a complaint about such teaching, she would contact the local superintendent.

Although $3 million is a relatively small amount of money in a $6 billion state budget, Blount’s questions show that the governor’s request will not be fulfilled without scrutiny — and it might not be fulfilled at all.

Emily Wagster PETTUS has covered Mississippi government and politics since 1994.

News

Texas native loves the green of Natchez

News

City readies for Spring Pilgrimage 2021

News

Waterproof crash claims two lives

News

City: Be patient with limb clean up

Business

New chicken tender restaurant coming to Natchez

News

Mississippi expands COVID vaccine eligibility to anyone 50 or older

News

New Visit Natchez director aiming to bridge gap between tourism partners

News

Vidalia man turns himself in to Ferriday police for October shooting incident

News

Governor’s orders do not relax local COVID-19 restrictions

News

Forbes calls Natchez No. 5 in “Top 10 Best Places In America” to avoid pandemic

COVID-19

Gov. Reeves lessens COVID-19 restrictions

News

Neighbor helping neighbor a common sight after winter storm

News

Supervisors: No employee raises possible because of budget concerns

News

Chamber pot spares Stanton Hall from further storm damage

News

Supervisors approve payment system for attorneys

News

3 alleged to have broken into vehicles in Beau Pre in Adams County custody

News

Six scouts sworn in as Eagle Scouts together

News

Dart:Sagos mix business with Rhythm Night Club passion project

News

J&J’s 1-dose shot cleared, giving US 3rd COVID-19 vaccine

News

Author Richard Grant speaks about book, Natchez at Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration

Business

New machinery introduced at Natchez countertop business

News

Vidalia still under boil water advisory after winter storm

News

Natchez hires assistance for storm cleanup

News

Bishop Gunn lead singer McCready arrested Thursday in Concordia Parish