by Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann
Last year, the Legislature provided computers to every Mississippi student, increased connectivity to unserved areas, provided additional ICU bed capacity, and contributed to the cost of personal protective equipment for healthcare workers, cities and counties, and much more.
The New Year is a time for setting new resolutions and paving a path to accomplishing them. Our 2021 goals in the Lieutenant Governor’s Office center around investing in Mississippi’s greatest asset: our people.
Equipping our citizens with the skills and resources they need to obtain a quality education, secure a meaningful career, and engage in their communities is the single-best way to assure our State’s future success. When the number of people employed increases, our health outcomes improve, our State becomes more attractive for developers and investors, and we have more money circulating through our economy for our schools, roads and bridges, and other critical services and infrastructure.
In terms of the driving creators of jobs, our bench is deep in Mississippi. We have worked with our local economic developers to bring forward an incentive for small-to-medium businesses which is competitive with neighboring states, easy to calculate and understand, and transparent with taxpayer money. The plan, tentatively called “MFLEX,” allows flexibility while requiring reporting and accountability. If the business seeking the incentive does not meet their stated goals, they do not receive the incentive. We look forward to introducing this innovative proposal, and to eliminating tax incentives which are seldom used or have generated a negative return.
On education, research shows the number of people who are employed is directly correlated with educational attainment levels. This starts with supporting our citizens who are most closely connected with growing the next generation of Mississippi leaders: our K-12 teachers. This Session, we will push legislation to raise teachers’ salaries and attract more licensed professionals to our K-12 classrooms. We are also interested in increasing dual enrollment and dual credit programs for 11th and 12th graders. Providing these opportunities for secondary students increases the likelihood that they will be career or college ready by graduation day.
Finally, thousands of people who were previously incarcerated are released every year and reenter our working-age population. Neglecting to provide these individuals with the tools they need to succeed, like a driver’s license or workforce training, only ensures recidivism. We are working now with our Sheriffs, District Attorneys, and citizen advocates on a bill to address some of these issues and to safely expand parole eligibility.
There are other initiatives including tax reform, the continued streamlining of government, and access to healthcare, to name a few, which will also be critical as we move forward.
From a flood covering our Capital City, horrific tornadoes and hurricanes, a corrections crisis, and a worldwide pandemic which continues to threaten our citizens’ safety and ravage our economy, 2020 has been one of the most challenging in modern history. By keeping our eye on the prize — helping more Mississippians find a meaningful job — our State is certainly headed for brighter days.