Barbour talks future, past in final State of State

By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal

JACKSON – In his final State of the State speech Tuesday night, Gov. Haley Barbour emphasized that Mississippi is poised to make strides.
The Republican governor called the event before a joint legislative session in the ornate House chamber “bittersweet.”
While Barbour made some specific proposals for what will be his final year in office and recounted his tenure, Rep. Brian Aldridge, R-Tupelo, said, “it sounded like a man running for president.”
Barbour, mentioned as a possible presidential candidate, spent a large portion of the nearly 40-minute speech talking about how Mississippi is a leader in developing alternative sources of energy.
“With excellence in education, we will keep pushing for job creation,” he said. “Hopefully the federal government will start making it easier for us, instead of harder.”
He was especially critical of the Democratic presidential administration of Barack Obama, but Barbour did make several proposals that were popular across party lines.
He received a standing ovation when announcing that he would spend $7.3 million from the federal stimulus package to pay for a new Highway Patrol trooper class.
Because of the number of retirements and the state budget crunch preventing a new trooper class, the number of Highway Patrol officers on state roads has been a concern.
Plus, the governor announced he would use a portion of up to $50 million in surplus funds to allow more Medicaid recipients to sign up for home- and community-based care.
Barbour acknowledged that both Sen. Hob Bryan, D-Amory, and Rep. Steve Holland, D-Plantersville, chairmen of their chambers’ Public Health committees, have been outspoken advocates of expanding the program. Holland said it keeps people in their homes and out of more expensive nursing homes.
The state, though, has been unable to expand the program because of a lack of funds.
The governor also received large applause when announcing it is time to begin work on the state’s civil rights museum.
The project has been bogged down at least in part because of a disagreement over where it should be located. Barbour said now’s the time because of the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Riders and the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War.
Barbour said former Gov. William Winter and Reuben Anderson, the first African-American on the state Supreme Court in the 20th century, recommended that the museum be built next to the planned Mississippi History Museum in downtown Jackson.
Barbour ended the speech talking about Mississippi’s future.
“We are well-prepared to make a major leap forward,” he said. “In this decade, Mississippi mothers and grandmothers can see their children and grandchildren choosing to stay in Mississippi because Mississippi is the best place to build a successful career, to have the most opportunities and to enjoy this sweet land’s quality of life.”

Contact Bobby Harrison at (601) 353-3119 or bobby.harrison@journalinc.com.