Last week's first and only debate involving all three GOP candidates showed that Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves is more style than substance. Photo by Ashton Pittman
Normally, I don't like to be wrong. But I wouldn't mind being wrong about next Tuesday's Republican gubernatorial primary.
Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves is probably going to win the primary and the general election in November. That's too bad.
Last week's first and only debate involving all three GOP candidates showed that Reeves is more style than substance. Bill Waller Jr., the former chief justice of the Mississippi Supreme Court, offered specific policy proposals. Reeves, as usual, did not. Unless you consider constantly saying "no" to be a policy.
Waller appears to be interested in the wellbeing of the average Mississippian. Reeves' primary interest continues to be—as it has been during his 16 years in office—his fat-cat supporters. (My apologies to genuine fat cats everywhere.)
Waller and Reeves disagree deeply on Mississippi's economy. Waller said he isn't satisfied with the "status quo" and said, "I believe the people of Mississippi deserve better."
Waller said economic growth in Mississippi has trailed surrounding states and the rest of the nation. The nation's gross domestic product has grown 22% since the 2008 recession while Mississippi's GDP has grown just 2%, he said.
Reeves, who's all about the status quo, insists Mississippi's economy is growing "faster than at any time in our history." Ironic, considering that Reeves and Gov. Phil Bryant favor economic development, in the form of giveaways to foreign companies, over economic growth.
Reeves and Bryant have something else in common: They both oppose two things that would help many Mississippians—expansion of Medicaid and raising the gasoline tax to pay for repairing roads and bridges.
Waller said Mississippi "has to" accept the expansion under the Affordable Care Act, which would provide health insurance to 384,000 of the working poor in the state. Expansion would bring an estimated $1 billion a year in federal money to Mississippi. That money, he said, would bring real economic growth and "incentivize people to work."
"And there is no cost to the state. The hospitals have agreed to underwrite it, and what the participants pay will fund the program," he said.
If Reeves is elected, he will see to it that Mississippi remains one of the 14 states that have not accepted Medicaid expansion.
Why? He doesn't like Obamacare, he doesn't like Obamacare and he doesn't like Obamacare. So there.
Reeves said he doesn't believe Medicaid expansion won't cost the state anything. How does he know this? Reeves didn't say. Perhaps, like Bryant, he doesn't trust the federal government.
Regarding roadwork, the only road project Reeves seems to be interested is one near the gated community where he lives. He is opposed to any gas-tax hike because he said it will cost Mississippi families $500 per year. Paying that, he said, won't allow families to "maintain their lifestyle." Reeves said the state must reorganize its priorities. And here I thought the priority was repairing crumbling roads and bridges.
Waller said a gas-tax increase is the fairest way to fund road maintenance. And many big businesses have already said they support an increase.
If the GOP primary goes to a runoff, that increases Waller's chances slightly. Do I think he will become the GOP nominee? As Reeves likes to say, "No."
I hope I'm wrong.
Charles Corder has been an editor and writer for more than 40 years. Contact him at [email protected]. This column does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Jackson Free Press.