Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant delivered his annual State of the State speech at the Capitol Tuesday and here are three key takeaways:
No new taxes
Bryant didn’t say “read my lips,” but he all but ruled out any “burdensome” tax increase, offering instead for lawmakers to work with Department of Revenue Commissioner Herb Frierson, the former chair of the House Appropriations Committee. Bryant wants lawmakers to make it easier for the DOR to “help collect taxes that are owed to the state and give more ability to the commissioner to settle tax issues that have lingered in arbitration or simply gone uncollected.”
There are no bills that would increase the state’s gasoline tax, or any tax for that matter, in the Mississippi Legislature, but one could be forthcoming after the Democrats emphasized they wanted to repair “the state’s crumbling infrastructure” in their pre-taped rebuttal. The deadline for action on any revenue-related bill by the originating chamber is Feb. 22.
Blue lives matter
A former deputy sheriff, Bryant said he supports a new law that would classify any crime against law enforcement as a hate crime. There are four separate “Blue Lives Matter” bills in the House that would offer increased legal penalties for crimes against law enforcement personnel.
Bryant said one of the reasons he supported the legislation was that “law enforcement was under attack” nationally. He mentioned two incidents last year in Mississippi, the wounding of three Mississippi Bureau of Investigation agents during a raid and the death of Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics Special Agent Lee Tartt during a hostage situation.
State Rep. Andy Gipson, R-Braxton, said on Facebook after the speech that he was “committed to bringing forward Blue Lives Matter legislation from the Judiciary B Committee as he [Bryant] discussed.” Gipson chairs the House Judiciary B Committee.
K-12 education funding formula
The governor came out strongly on the side of Republican lawmakers who are working to rewrite the state’s nearly 20-year-old K-12 education funding formula, the Mississippi Adequate Education Program. A placeholder bill with the relevant code sections is already under consideration after nonprofit group EdBuild revealed its recommendations Monday to the Legislature.
“Like many of you, I believe we should devote resources to education programs that have consistently achieved their stated goal, and prioritize spending where the student gets the most good out of our investment,” Bryant said. “This priority should be in the classroom, not at central office.”