Reaction varies to Bryant's State of the State

By Emily Wagster Pettus and Jeff Amy/The Associated Press

JACKSON — Some Mississippi reaction to the 40-minute State of the State speech given Tuesday by Republican Gov. Phil Bryant:

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Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, a Republican from Jackson, noted that Bryant used a quote by the late President Ronald Reagan (“Tear down this wall”) when talking about open enrollment, letting children cross into other public school districts: “It’s the same things he campaigned on — education, health care, public safety…. He’s willing to take some bold steps.”

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Sen. Hillman Frazier, D-Jackson, said he was cautious about Bryant’s emphasis on school choice. “In Mississippi, we have very limited resources and we have to make sure we’re strengthening the primary system we have in place,” Frazier said.

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Rep. Alyce Clarke, D-Jackson, said she was happy about the year’s worth of economic development announcements that Bryant recounted, but said she wanted to see something to aid the city of Jackson in particular. “It’s my belief that if we strengthen the capital city, we will strengthen our state,” Clarke said.

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Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Eugene “Buck” Clarke, R-Hollandale, said lawmakers would consider Bryant’s repeated calls to financially support economic development and public safety agencies. “Last year, with Public Safety, the Highway Patrol, we increased their budget by $3 million or $4 million,” he said.

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Rep. Tommy Reynolds, D-Charleston, said he disagrees with Bryant’s stance on Medicaid expansion under the federal health care law President Barack Obama signed in 2010. Bryant opposes the expansion, and Reynolds supports it. Reynolds said people who have private health insurance are already paying to cover costs of treatment for uninsured residents who might wait to seek treatment after developing late-stage cancer or other severe problems. “We need to be realistic,” Reynolds said.

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Rep. Becky Currie, R-Brookhaven, praised Bryant’s speech and governing style. “He is, for me, one that relates to all people. He gives you the facts and lets you make up your own mind… He’s not one of those who’s in your face or twists your arm.”

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Rep. Bennett Malone, D-Carthage, said: “If we will follow what he laid down for us to do in his speech, Mississippi will move on forward.”

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Ed Sivak, director of the Mississippi Economic Policy Center, a nonprofit group that advocates policies to help people with low or moderate incomes, said: “Unfortunately, the alternative to Medicaid expansion offered tonight — connecting more uninsured Mississippians to health insurance through economic growth — falls short as a solution. The majority of people who would be eligible for health coverage through Medicaid expansion already have a job. Medicaid expansion will create 9,000 jobs and remains a critical economic and public health opportunity for our state.”