By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal
Nickey Browning, a Pontotoc Democrat seeking his fifth term in the state Senate, says a lot has been accomplished in his district, and he wants to see it through to fruition.
Betsey Hamilton, a New Albany Republican, says Browning has lost touch with the voters in Senate District 3. She is campaigning to upend him in the Nov. 8 general election.
“I think my opponent has lost touch with his constituents,” Hamilton said, adding he “is more in tune and seems to serve special interest groups more than constituents. They don’t see him in the communities. They don’t know him. He is invisible.”
Browning said he is focused on helping his constituents. “I spend my days working for my people,” he said.
Browning said District 3 is uniquely situated because of four-lane construction on state Highways 6, 15 and 9 that connect to other major transportation routes, namely U.S. 78 and 45.
“The three main things are highways, jobs and education,” Browning said. “Those areas are where we are always focused and will continue to be focused. It is important everybody in the district has a job, and we have such great school systems in the district.
“Highways will help improve the area and make the area more attractive for people to come here and live and to draw new industry.”
The Toyota manufacturing plant at Blue Springs, which is scheduled to open later this year, is in District 3.
“Toyota is very important. I would love to see phase 2 start soon and bring in more suppliers. But I don’t want to forget our small businesses, the furniture industry that has supported this area for such a long time. We want to make sure they thrive,” Browning said.
Browning, a small business owner, said he will be looking for more opportunities, like the bill he co-authored to provide furniture manufacturers a tax break for hiring cut and sew workers.
Hamilton, who has been a school teacher, real estate agent and appraiser and also has worked in a bank, has been active in various aspects of community service in New Albany. She served on the New Albany School Board, currently is on the board of CREATE, a nonprofit Northeast Mississippi philanthropic foundation, and is on the Commission for the Future of Northeast Mississippi.
“We have to do something about early childhood education, do something about the achievement gap and we have to lower the dropout rate,” she said. “We also must focus on workforce training and change from manufacturing to the possible high-tech jobs that seem to be out there and looking at Northeast Mississippi.”
She also said she would look for ways to eliminate the inventory tax that businesses must pay. She said she does not have a way to offset the revenue local governments would lose if the inventory tax was eliminated, but wants to work on the issue.
Both said they would support the Public Employee Retirement System as it currently stands for state and local workers.
Browning said he voted during the past session against eliminating the civil service protection for state employees and would do so again if the Legislature revisits the issue. Gov. Haley Barbour has advocated taking employees out from under the Personnel Board, which provides the civil service protection.
Hamilton said she is studying the issue.