Last week, the 2018 legislative session ended without a new funding formula for public education and no long-term plan to fix the state’s infrastructure. After lawmakers adjourned, Attorney General Jim Hood voiced his opinion on the session.
Hood said that the Senate did not take up any bills seeking to fix the state’s roads and bridges through a systemic plan. Lt. Governor Tate Reeves did introduce the BRIDGE act, which was billed as $1 billion infrastructure plan, but it died after negotiations fell through. Hood said that there are ways to come up with new sources of funding.
“The Senate leadership failed once again to consider funding road and bridge repair partially with a fuel tax (7,000 – 8,000 jobs), an internet sales tax ($134 million), a lottery for education, the expansion of Medicaid ($11 billion and 11,000 jobs), or mental health to help with the opioid epidemic,” Hood said.
The Medicaid funding and tech bills did pass through both chambers, but the AG focused specifically on Lt. Governor Tate Reeves for the lack of expansion for Mississippi Medicaid companies.
“Unfortunately for the taxpayers of Mississippi, the Senate leadership was bought and paid for this legislative session by giant corporations with little interest in the well-being of our citizens,” Hood said. “As an example, campaign finance reports from 2010 through 2017 show that our lieutenant governor has raked in $193,750 in contributions from the companies that were awarded the contracts for the state’s Medicaid program. Of that amount, $50,000 was donated just last year to the lieutenant governor by Centene, the out-of-state parent company of Magnolia Health. The Senate successfully killed a proposal that would have allowed our own in-state hospitals to compete with the three managed care companies for the $3 billion Medicaid contracts.”
Hood went on to reference a bill which was passed by the legislature, which gives the authority to the Public Service Commission to initiate action against electric companies. Hood has stated that this could affect a $1 billion lawsuit that his office brought against Entergy.
The Lt. Governor responded to Hood’s claims through his spokeswoman. Reeves said that Hood’s response shows that he is in favor of raising taxes on Mississippians, and that the AG’s work is done through personal friends of his. The full statement from Reeves’ office can be read below:
“In three short paragraphs, Jim Hood managed to offer his support for raising gas taxes, raising Internet taxes, raising sales taxes, and raising income taxes for every Mississippian,” said Laura Hipp, spokeswoman for Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves. “Hood also evidently supports sole-source no-bid contracts. That’s just not right, even for Jim Hood’s ‘friends.’
“Hood’s support of Obamacare expansion is the one policy that could hamper Republicans successful fiscal policy of balanced budgets, larger rainy day fund, and less debt for our taxpayers.
While the Attorney General continues to take millions from his trial lawyer friends and then spends it for personal expenses, the Lieutenant Governor has been universally praised for leading the charge for transparency and passing comprehensive campaign finance reform.
Maybe the Attorney General should spend less time in Houston criticizing our conservative policies and more time focused on defending Mississippi’s recently passed law making us the safest place in America for an unborn child.”
Some are holding out hope that Governor Bryant could call for a special session for issues such as education and infrastructure, but he has stated that it is not likely.