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Today is December 6, 2022

Talking with ‘Today’: Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves

Talking with ‘Today’: Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves

Tate and Elee Reeves pose for a family portrait at the state Capitol with their children (from left) Madeline Tate, Sarah Tyler and Elizabeth Magee.

How do you view the role of lieutenant governor in state government?
    The lieutenant governor’s role should be to shape smart public policy that makes Mississippi a better place to live, work and raise a family. The lieutenant governor serves as the presiding officer of the state Senate and helps to guide legislation through the legislature, along with the speaker of the House of Representatives.

What are the key responsibilities of the lieutenant governor?
    Mississippi’s lieutenant governor position is unique when compared to other states. In the 1800s, Mississippi chose to give the lieutenant governor strong authority through the state constitution. With the approval of the Senate, the lieutenant governor appoints members of Senate committees and assigns all bills to committees. The lieutenant governor also serves as acting governor when the governor is out of state.

What have been some of your major accomplishments in your first year as lieutenant governor?
    Mississippi has a balanced budget for fiscal year 2013 that spends more on education and adequately funds other priorities for the fiscal year that began in July. One of my priorities, setting aside 2 percent of state funds for a “rainy day,” was adopted to provide a cushion in the current economic climate.
    We also sent a message to state agencies that the legislature will not tolerate wasteful spending. I campaigned last year on cutting government waste, and one of the most egregious examples has been our spending on state cars. Taxpayers have paid for about 7,500 vehicles—that’s one for every four state employees —even buying cars for the government in a recession, when most Mississippi families couldn’t afford to buy one for themselves. That is far too many government cars. So we placed a yearlong moratorium on state car purchases and ordered a 2 percent annual reduction in the fleet for three years. That will save taxpayers $12 million.
    In education, we enacted reforms to save money and clearly communicate school performance. In an effort to make school district ratings more transparent, the legislature changed the grading system to A, B, C, D and F. The simplified grading terminology will clarify district performance for parents. Also, school district administrative functions were consolidated in both Sunflower and Bolivar counties, saving taxpayers more than $3 million.
    The legislature approved several measures to make Mississippi an even better place to do business. I believe government should create an environment to encourage the private sector to create more jobs. The legislature laid the groundwork by allowing businesses to claim a tax credit on inventory held in the state, which will encourage companies to invest more capital in creating jobs. The state’s workers’ compensation law also was reformed to ensure a more fair and impartial relationship between the worker and employer with provisions to better define the employee’s choice of physician, implement stronger measures against workplace drug and alcohol use, and increase certain benefits.

As you move into your second year, what are the major issues and how will you address them?
    My top priority is fixing our broken education system. Too many Mississippi students are stuck in a school that is not working for them. Too many teens are giving up on an education and dropping out of school. Too many parents are frustrated with the lack of options for their children.
    It’s time for Mississippi to rethink what is possible in public education. We need innovative ways to improve public school education in our state, and public charter schools are one way we can achieve our goals. By allowing a choice, healthy competition will spur both traditional schools and charter schools to do their best to attract quality teachers and better educate students. I would like to see public charter schools allowed in every school district, giving all parents a choice in their children’s education.
    However, I am willing to compromise and support a bill to allow public charter schools in districts graded by the Mississippi Department of Education as C, D or F, and in A and B districts with local school board approval. Charter schools would be required to have a proven track record of success.
    Public charter schools would be funded with existing dollars. No new taxes would be added. The funds within the current school funding formula, the Mississippi Adequate Education Program, would follow a student to their school of choice.
    Of course, charter schools are only one part of the solution to our education problems. We will review many ideas during the session that raise the bar for our administrators, teachers, parents and, most importantly, our students.

How do you view the financial stability of state government?
    Our state’s finances are steady, but Mississippi has not been immune to the economic difficulties seen worldwide. This session, the legislature set aside money in the Rainy Day Fund for only the second time in eight years, and we ended the fiscal year with $268 million more dollars than we anticipated.
    However, our state economist predicts revenues will not return to pre-recession levels for another two years.  He has described our economy as weak and vulnerable. While our revenues for the year are slightly higher than we expected, the national economy is fragile. That fact, coupled with the millions of dollars that Obamacare could cost the state, means the legislature must be cautious in its spending.

Our readership is primarily rural. What opportunities do you see in the rural areas of Mississippi?
    Mississippi is a rural state, and our rural areas will always be important to our future. I see real opportunities for growth through promoting tourist attractions, supporting our agriculture industry, developing energy resources and strengthening our workforce through partnerships with community colleges and universities.

Electric power associations are an important ally in the state’s economic development efforts. How do you view our role?
    Electric power associations are invaluable to building a successful economic development program. Without the strong partnership by electric power associations, the legislature, governor and Mississippi Development Authority would have a difficult time recruiting new businesses to the state. When companies look at Mississippi, they want a strong workforce, reliable power source and room to grow.

Your office is often referred to as one of the most powerful seats in state government. Do you feel this observation is valid, and if so, how have you harnessed the power to benefit Mississippi?
    While the Mississippi Constitution granted this office with much authority, I believe we can best accomplish smart public policy for the state with input from Mississippians from across the state. When I was elected, I met with each of the 52 members of the state Senate about their interests and needs of their districts.
    From those meetings, I put together a solid leadership team in the Mississippi Senate that represents the entire state. I didn’t just appoint leaders from central Mississippi where I’m from, and I didn’t limit leadership to just members of my party. We put a team together that reflects all of Mississippi.
    By building a consensus among the Senate and with the help of Speaker Philip Gunn and Gov. Phil Bryant, we can pass strong, conservative legislation for the state

After you have completed your first term as lieutenant governor, how would you like Mississippians to remember you?
    We must increase the education attainment level of our residents to make Mississippi an attractive place for businesses to locate and expand. We need a workforce prepared for highly technical careers that pay well.
    When my time as lieutenant governor is over, I hope the legislature will have made a difference in education that will lead to a stronger foundation for a healthy economic development environment. We accomplish this with real education reform initiatives like public charter schools, more rigorous academic standards for our schools and increased reading proficiency levels among students.


A brief biography:
Rankin County native first elected as treasurer

Elected in 2011 as Mississippi’s lieutenant governor, Tate Reeves stands ready to help guide the state toward a brighter future through a focus on improving educational achievement for students, supporting the creation of high-skilled jobs and responsibly managing the taxpayers’ money.
    Reeves led the 52-member Senate in a successful 2012 legislative session with a focus on keeping government spending under control, reforming education and making Mississippi a better place to raise a family.
    Reeves was named Legislator of the Year by the Mississippi Municipal League in 2012.
    Previously, Reeves was elected as Mississippi’s 53rd treasurer in 2003 and re-elected to a second term four years later with 61 percent of the vote, the highest percentage of any candidate running for statewide office. He was the first Republican treasurer in the state’s history.
    Reeves is a Rankin County native and a graduate of Florence High School. He is an honors graduate of Millsaps College and holds a bachelor’s degree in economics. Reeves has continued to be an active alumnus and remains involved with his alma mater.
    Reeves and his wife, Elee Williams Reeves, a Tylertown native, are the proud parents of three daughters, Sarah Tyler, Elizabeth Magee and Madeline Tate.
    The Reeves family attends Galloway Memorial United Methodist Church, where Elee and Tate co-chaired a past Capital Campaign.

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