The heat surrounding the Mississippi governor’s race will be turned up a notch when incumbent Republican Tate Reeves and Democratic challenger Brandon Presley take the stage Wednesday night in Jackson.
The hour-long debate, which will be put on by WAPT-TV and moderated by Megan West along with Troy Johnson, will be the only time voters get a chance to see the gubernatorial candidates go head-to-head prior to Election Day on Nov. 7.
As for what topics will be discussed, here are a few voters can expect to hear about and what each candidate has said so far during their time on the campaign trail.
The two candidates have remained on opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to expanding Medicaid. While Presley claims he will expand coverage on day one in office if elected, Reeves has been steadfast in his opinion that Medicaid expansion is nothing but “expanding welfare.”
“We need more people in the workforce,” Reeves said during a recent press conference. “So, adding 300,000 able-bodied Mississippians to the welfare rolls I would argue is a bad idea.”
Presley, on the other hand, has pointed to studies that show a majority of those who would be covered under expansion are working individuals whose employers do not provide health insurance and cannot afford private coverage.
“It is ridiculous to think that giving 230,000 working people health care because they’re working is somehow welfare,” Presley said with the Mississippi Press Association over the summer. “That’s just totally ridiculous.”
Presley has continued to preach his belief that the only reason Reeves has not hopped on board is because the idea was put into action by former President Barack Obama.
“Now there’s one reason Tate Reeves is not expanding Medicaid,” Presley said at a September forum in Jones County. “It’s because a Democratic president passed the Affordable Care Act…If Donald Trump had passed the Affordable Care Act and 230,000 people in the state would benefit, I’d be for it in five seconds because it’s not about the politics; it’s about the people.”
As of date, 40 states and Washington, D.C. have approved Medicaid expansion.
As nearly half of Mississippi’s rural hospitals are in danger of closing and a majority across the state are struggling financially, the hospital crisis has been at the forefront of the current election cycle.
Presley vouches that Medicaid expansion could play a huge role in finding a solution as the cost of treating uninsured patients goes uncompensated in many cases. He also points to the billions of dollars and thousands of jobs expansion could bring into the state if passed.
“There is no end in sight to the crisis under Tate Reeves’ failed leadership,” Presley said after a hospital closure in July. “As governor, I will end Tate Reeves’ healthcare crisis once and for all by expanding Medicaid, which will keep hospitals open, provide affordable healthcare to 220,000 working Mississippians, and create thousands of good-paying jobs across our state.”
As an alternative to Medicaid expansion, Reeves recently introduced new Medicaid reimbursement reforms, which could ultimately allocate nearly $700 million in annual payments to hospitals throughout the state.
“It’s going to give us time to shore up their finances. It’s a far better plan than expanding welfare,” Reeves said of the plan at last week’s Hobnob event. “It’s a plan that will work for the people of Mississippi.”
The incumbent has also pointed to a passed yet controversial grant program for hospitals, a loan repayment program for nurses, increased residency programs, and his willingness to reform Certificate of Need laws as steps he has taken to help hospitals.
Reeves, a longtime proponent of fully eliminating personal income tax, has seen monumental income tax cuts during his first four years in office. Mississippi is currently in the middle of a phase-out that will leave the state with a flat 4% tax rate on earned funds over $10,000 once the plan is said and done.
And Reeves believes more can be done for taxpayers. The Republican has continued to plea with lawmakers to enact a full income tax proposal that would put Mississippi with states like Texas and Florida as one of few without any income taxes.
“I pushed to eliminate our state income tax, and we’ve achieved the largest tax cut in state history,” Reeves said during a May stop in Gulfport. “And we can do more because this is Mississippi’s time.”
Presley, instead, would like to see cuts come in the form of grocery taxes and car tag fees. The Democrat believes axing these would help the average Mississippian more than full income tax elimination.
“Tate Reeves has had 12 long years to do something about Mississippi’s highest-in-the-country tax on food, but since it doesn’t affect his country club friends…Tate Reeves hasn’t done a thing,” Presley said following the news that Tennessee GOP Governor Bill Lee had announced a three-month-long grocery tax holiday. “As governor, I will work with Republicans, Democrats, and Independents to slash the grocery tax so we can put more money in your pocket.”
Other topics destined to come up
- Economic opportunity: Highlighted by a $2.5 billion project in Lowndes County, Mississippi saw a record year for economic development projects in 2022. Thousands of jobs have also been created during Reeves’ first four years in office.
- Teacher pay: Even though Reeves recently signed into law the largest pay raise for teachers Mississippi has ever seen, Presley says more can be done.
- Funding HBCUs: Presley has made waves in his attendance at multiple HBCU football games this fall, promising fans more funding for Jackson State, Alcorn State, and other HBCUs.
- TANF scandal: As the largest-ever public welfare scandal continues to shake the state, Presley has consistently blamed Reeves for playing a role in it while the incumbent denies any wrongdoing.
Can residents weigh in on what is asked?
Yes, WAPT is encouraging Mississippians to submit their own questions by emailing email@example.com.
How to watch the debate
Wednesday’s debate can be streamed live on WAPT in the Jackson metropolitan area. It will also be available on Mississippi Public Broadcasting’s radio and television stations, MPB’s website, and on the MPB app. For post-debate coverage, SuperTalk Mississippi News will air clips on 48 talk and music stations across the state while providing recap coverage here on supertalk.fm.