STARKVILLE — Coming off of a legislative session that saw multiple major bills passed such as the $246 million teacher pay raise and the $525 million income tax cut, Mississippi currently has $2.5 billion baked to start this fiscal year.
Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann said the state is in the best shape it has been in a long time when speaking to the Starkville Rotary Club on Monday at the Hilton Garden Inn.
“We have positioned Mississippi, in just three years, to where we have paid down our debt, we’ve given the largest teacher pay raise, cut taxes, have $2.5 billion in the bank and we are prepared for the next three years,” he said.
He said this money will put it in an advantageous position if a recession were to strike.
“We are very concerned, I am anyway, about the possibility of a recession and we are making our government be operational so that we can withstand what would normally occur during a recession period if that in fact does occur,” he said.
Hosemann broke down how the state got into this position.
First it cut the number of employees. The state had 26,000 employees three years ago, where it has 23,000 now. He said this cut did not include public school employees or university employees.
“We’ve gotten down to the people who are actually working, that can do a good job, and they need to be compensated so they don’t roam off to private industries,” he said. “We can’t compete with private industries, but we want to be close enough that people can make this a career and stay with us.”
The other step of the process was debt repayment.
The state has paid off $295 million in debt, and he said it plans to pay another $305 million this year.
What comes next?
Hosemann said that moving forward, being in the advantageous position that the state is, he wants to focus on Postpartum Medicaid in the wake of the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, something that triggered a Mississippi law that bans most abortions.
“We had a study group that met last Thursday and Friday on what to do about mommas of children from zero to three … assuming that we will have more now that we are a strictly a pro-life state,” he said. “We are anticipating more life, so how are we going to take care of them and how healthy are they going to be?”
He said expanding the program to include up to a year of coverage is something that needs to be looked at, especially now that the state has excess funds.
“Do you all know what the cost is for moms that are working to be able to go to the doctor for longer than two months, for up to 12 months?” he asked. “Seven million dollars. … We have $2.5 billion in the bank, and we can’t take care of our children for working people? That doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense to me.”
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