State of the State

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Mississippi Gov. Ronnie Musgrove concentrated on two basic subjects in his 2003 State of the State address, education and better jobs.

"The first order of business is to put our schools first, because we know that communities with good public schools attract good jobs," said Musgrove. "Everybody benefits from good schools. My first priority is protecting education and Mississippi's future."

Then he gave the legislators specifics as he sees them.

"I am calling on you to appropriate pre-kindergarten through higher education in one comprehensive bill and at 62 percent of the general fund," said Musgrove. "Pass that education bill, put it on my desk and I'll sign it--and I'm not talking about the third week of March. I mean the third week of January."

The governor said he also wants to help rural areas with economic development.

"I am proposing the Mississippi Rural Economic Impact Authority," said Musgrove. "Twenty million in bonds will be used to provide assistance to new and existing businesses and training for people who have lost their jobs in rural parts of Mississippi."

After his speech, the governor talked with NewsCenter 11 and other statewide media.

"Mississippi looks to our schools to improve our future. We must protect our schools and put our schools first," Musgrove said. "So we're going to work real hard to make that case to the legislature, but also to the people of Mississippi and I believe people of Mississippi want better jobs. I believe they want better schools and we're going to invest to make that happen."

While admitting his plan is ambitious, the governor said it can be funded out of present monies.

"There's not a need for a tax increase. There's money there," said the governor. "There's legitimate money there. We need to prioritize. That's what I have said for three years. We have worked very closely with the legislature and we'll continue to work with them to make sure that we fund our priorities. And our first priority must be our schools."

Reaction to the governor's remarks, from Democrats and Republicans, was generally positive.

"But the idea of putting the universities, K through 12 and community colleges, in one bill and bringing them out next week appeals to me," said House Appropriations chairman, Rep. Charlie Capps.

"From the first year that I was elected, I said to the first interview that I did, if we all get our priorities lined up like the governor has with education first, our state will be okay," said Sen. Gloria Williamson of Philadelphia.

"I think it's going to require not only belt tightening but I think it's going to require some new methods of funding," said Meridian Rep. Charles Young, chairman of the House Univerisities and Colleges Committee.
"And we're looking forward to working very diligently so we can come up with the necessary money to take Mississippi and move our education program several rungs higher."

"The House and Senate have always worked together," said Sen. Terry Burton of Newton, chairman of the Senate Universities and Colleges Committee. "The speaker has worked very well with the Lt. Governor. They're both great leaders and we have had a great relationship with them. We just need that relationship with the executive branch and hopefully he means what he says."