It is great to be back at the Fair. And I’m grateful for this cold snap – only 93 in the shade!

As a lot of you have already noticed, this is my first time at the Fair in more than 25 years without my trophy wife, Marsha. On Monday, Marsha underwent surgery to remove an enlarged thyroid gland. Everything went well; no malignancy and an excellent prognosis, but her recovery means she can’t be here today.

So Marsha’s been in bed recovering, and she’s been doing a lot of laughing. Have y’all seen the Democrat Senate Campaign Committee ad describing Ronnie Musgrove as a budget conservative? What a joke!
Everybody here knows Kirk Fordice turned the state treasury over to Musgrove in the best financial condition in history; with a record unallocated surplus. And in four years Musgrove not only squandered it all, he left the state in the deepest budget hole in history . . . a $720 million budget shortfall.

When they claim Musgrove was great on the budget, the National Democrat Party must think Mississippians are ignorant or that we have amnesia.
Next they’ll try to tell you how Mississippi gained a lot of jobs during the Musgrove Administration

But it is the political season, and there is no better place to talk politics than here at the Neshoba County Fair.

From Ronald Reagan in 1980 to Phil Bryant eight minutes ago; our great senators Roger Wicker and Thad Cochran yesterday; and a bunch of outstanding candidates and elected officials today; this is the place
for campaigning and politics.

I wish John McCain were here; my candidate for President, and I hope yours, too. McCain is a genuine American hero. If you saw him in Meridian a few weeks ago, you know he has deep Mississippi roots and shares our values as well.

Frankly I wish Senator Obama were here, too, because I believe the more people learn about Obama’s record, the better McCain will do. In his incredibly brief three year career, Obama has the most liberal voting record in the U.S. Senate, and that is saying something. To the left of Hillary Clinton; left of Teddy Kennedy; left of John Kerry. Barack Obama’s voting record is to the left of Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who runs on the Socialist ticket; so Obama’s left of the Socialists.

But give Obama credit. While he’s far Left, he is a tremendous performer. He could sell Fords to Chevrolet dealers. And his turn of a phrase is really something: like, “Yes, we can.”

Great slogan, “Yes, we can.”
You gotta admire Obama’s nerve. Today fuel prices are the toughest issue for America; $4 gasoline is killing Mississippi families; and it is seriously damaging our state’s economy.

For decades the Democrats in Congress, joined on the left by newly minted Senator Obama a couple of years ago, have had a consistent policy ¬against increasing domestic production of oil and gas.

? Drilling off shore to increase the supply of
gas; No, say the Democrats.

? Drilling to produce billions of barrels of oil in ANWR;
No, say Obama and friends.

? Lease federal land to produce oil and gas from shale;
No, says the Left.

? Build more refineries; No, say the Liberals.

? Build nuclear power plants; No, say the Greens.

? Increase domestic production and reduce our reliance on
foreign oil; No, again from Obama and the Democrats.

And out of that series of No’s, Obama created the slogan, “Yes, we can.” And the news media swoons for it.

Amazing as politics can be, we can’t let politics get in the way of doing the people’s business, your business.

I’ve shot straight with you about state government and your business.

A whole lot of good has happened.

Record employment, after losing nearly 40,000 net jobs under the Musgrove administration; replacing low skill, low wage jobs with higher skilled, better paying jobs, so per capita income in Mississippi went up 26% during the last four years; tort reform; record increases in funding for every level of education between 2004 and 2008; and we bore the brunt of the worst natural disaster in American history along the way.

After Katrina the spirit and character of Mississippians shone through brightly, and America and the world liked what they saw in our people.
The Coast is coming back, bigger and better than ever, but there is still much to do.

Now we have to recognize, after very strong economic growth in our state for the last few years, $4 gasoline and the national credit crunch have begun to slow our economy down. We’re not immune to the problems of the national economy, especially the damage done by $4 gasoline and skyrocketing electric bills, which hurt our state more than most.

That’s why it is so important that this Legislature filled the state’s Rainy Day fund to its legal amount. Mississippi is prepared if our economy slows, and revenue falls below the predicted level. Solid conservative work by folks like Phil Bryant and Tate Reeves means we’ve protected our citizens from major budget cuts, and we’ve done it the right way: without raising anybody’s taxes.

And, on the energy front, Mississippi is doing more than its share to increase America’s domestic energy supply in order to bring down gas prices.

The outer continental shelf off our state is a major part of Gulf of Mexico oil and gas production. Chevron’s largest U.S. refinery is at Pascagoula, and compared to two years ago, it gets 10% more gasoline out of the same amount of oil. A billion dollar liquefied natural gas terminal is being built next to the refinery. Mississippi Power has announced a $2.4 billion coal gasification, electric generating plant over in Kemper County: the first commercial facility in the U.S. that will capture carbon and sequester it. Entergy has received its early site permit for another nuclear power plant at Grand Gulf; and a $3-plus billion coal to liquids plant is planned for Natchez to make diesel fuel out of coal. An ethanol plant is being built in Vicksburg; a biodiesel plant is open near Greenville; and Mississippi is producing more oil this year than last because of a series of injected CO2, tertiary recovery projects in old oil fields around the state.

And the premier environmental, energy efficient car in the world, the Prius, will be built by Toyota in Blue Springs, Mississippi.

We take energy policy seriously in Mississippi, just like Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker take it seriously in the Senate. If you want to bring down the cost of something, increase the supply. That’s why our
energy policy is “more energy.”

Let me close by mentioning Medicaid, a subject that has been in the news a lot lately.

There is a $90 million shortfall in the state’s portion of the Medicaid budget. As you probably remember, the State Senate passed a fair, permanent, sustainable method to fill this $90 million hole and fully fund Medicaid for years to come. The Senate passed it way back in May, by an overwhelming, bi-partisan vote of 41-7.

Well, the House has failed to pass any fair, permanent or sustainable method of fully funding Medicaid. The House leadership’s failure has left the Medicaid budget in an enormous deficit situation, compounded by the fact that, for every dollar the state puts up for Medicaid, the federal government matches it three-to-one. So this $90 million state funding shortfall results in a $375 million total Medicaid spending deficit.

And as you’ve probably read, state law and our Constitution don’t allow deficits, and there is a specific statute that requires the Governor to make cuts necessary to balance the Medicaid budget.

You may know that earlier this month I said I would obey the law, and the Division of Medicaid gave notice on July 11 of $375 million of cuts to Medicaid providers…cuts that would be awful for our health care system …cuts that would cost caregivers jobs and jeopardize quality care not only for Medicaid recipients but for all Mississippians.

Announcing these cuts was about as unpleasant and distasteful as anything I’ve had to do as Governor. I hated it, but I took an oath to obey the Constitution and the laws of our state, and I will keep that oath.

Before the fiscal year ended, I’d hoped the House leadership would choose to stop the cuts from going into effect, by joining the Senate in passing a fair, permanent, sustainable plan to fully fund Medicaid.
Frankly, I was surprised and saddened when that didn’t happen.

So in recent days my administration has been in discussions with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and its Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS, which oversees Medicaid.

We are working together on a way to make the required cuts and not hurt the health care system nearly as much as Medicaid’s original plan, which was proposed on July11.

We are making progress. I am proud of the leaders and staff of the Division of Medicaid for the work they are doing to develop a solution, and I thank the staff at CMS for the cooperation and assistance they are giving the state. CMS doesn’t want to harm our health care system or Medicaid recipients either.

I expect a public announcement of a revised proposal to be made by the time the Legislature returns Monday.

It’s always great to be here with you. Thank you.

7/31/2008