Former Chief Justice of the Mississippi Supreme Court, Bill Waller Jr., sat down with Y’all Politics to talk about why he decided to run for Governor of Mississippi and what he hopes to bring to the position if elected.
After announcing his retirement from the Mississippi Supreme Court, Waller said he planned to focus on teaching law. That was until individuals approached him about the possibility of running for office.
“I felt there were some issues that for me, I thought, needed to be addressed in order for Mississippi to move forward in a positive way,” said Waller.
After spending time in discussion with his wife over the decision, Waller entered the 2019 Gubernatorial election as a Republican. He joined other Republicans including Lt. Governor Tate Reeves and Representative Robert Foster.
Waller’s highest priorities include infrastructure, preparing the workforce through education; including increasing teacher pay, and solving the healthcare crisis.
“I’ve got a stool with three legs. I think that Mississippi can sit really well and comfortably on the three parts of my platform,” said Waller.
Waller said while the implementation of a lottery passed in the Special Session of 2019 was a good start, he conceptually disagrees with how the Internet Sales Tax dollars were appropriated.
“Obviously that comes back to a gas tax, I call it a ‘user fee.’ President Ronald Regan called it a user fee. Our user fee, at .18 cents a gallon, is the lowest in the Southeast,” said Waller. He said an increased user fee would also include out of state drivers that are using Mississippi roads. Waller said while he is conservative, Mississippi’s roads are in such a failing state that something needs to be done now.
When it comes to healthcare he said access to medical care is a ‘right to life issue.’ Waller said Mississippi has to ensure that there is a medical facility that can at least stabilize someone, within 30 miles of every person in the state.
“We’ve got four hospitals that have already either closed, gone bankrupt, or sold. We have 31 more on the hit list, half of the rural hospitals in the state,” said Waller. “The easiest solution is Medicaid reform.”
Waller used former Governor of Indiana Mike Pence, current Vice President, as an example. Waller said Pence did it five years ago, and the difference between our two states is that Indiana has received nearly $1 billion a year to hospitals. He believes there is a way to do it tax-neutral, where it won’t cost Mississippians anything.
Last, but not least, he said there needs to be a focus on education as a whole. Not only does he think teachers need more pay, but the emphasis on workforce development should include vocational tracks.
“I’m convinced we need a vocational track in our high school,” said Waller. “The total focus of our high school education in Mississippi is preparatory to college and someone who wants to be a mechanic can’t be a mechanic when they graduate from high school in most places. I’d love to see a different track.”
With an opponent like Reeves, who has statewide recognition, Waller said he’s been hitting the road to make sure Mississippians are familiar with who he is and his platform.
“Old-fashioned retail politics,” said Waller. “I’m trying to make all the public events I can make particularly those that focus on political gatherings.” Waller said he is full time with the campaign and half on the road and he says so far he has been very well received as he has traveled the state.”
In meeting with individuals across the state, Waller said he has been well received by constituents and that the response has been exciting.
“The general response from the public is that they are glad for someone who has some new ideas and wants to infuse some new blood in trying to create opportunities in Mississippi,” said Waller.
Waller, a Jackson native, comes from 21 years of service on the Mississippi Supreme Court, the last 10 as the Chief Justice. Prior to that he practiced law with Waller and Waller. He also has accumulated more than 30 years of service with the Mississippi Army National Guard, United States Army Reserve and is currently assigned to the Retired Reserve.