Secretary Hosemann: Mississippi Economic Council HobNob Speech 2012
Focuses on State of the Economy and Education, Structure of State Government
“Thank you so much for inviting me here again this year.
Normally, I discuss the future of Mississippi at Hobnob. In the past, we have amended every business law in the State to make our State more business friendly. I have reduced my budget each and every year since you hired me. It is now $1.5 million dollars a year less than when we started.
This next year will be no exception. We will be providing the Legislature with business incentives such as the business tax credit for signing a written research agreement with the universities in our State called “SMART.” We must monetize the intellectual property in our university system, provide students real life work experience, provide much needed income from the private sector to the universities and much needed technical research to large and small businesses in our State.
We will also press for employers to be able to pass through job tax credits generated by job tax credits from the Company to its employees. This is an innovative way to pass through tax credits which often go unused or carried forward at the business level to employees who desperately need a raise and to pay less taxes. All of those actions will encourage favorable future business results for our State and our employees.
But, that is not what I want to talk about today.
Please give me your attention for just a couple of minutes.
First, I think we need to face the facts. Mississippi’s gross State product is projected to increase only about 0.4% for the year. Mississippi has an unemployment rate of 9.2%.
More critical to us, between 2000 and 2009, Mississippi lost almost 1,000 small businesses. These are small businesses with less than 500 employees.
In 2008, Mississippi high school graduates made their college ratings benchmark for English 59% of the time. In 2012, our high school graduates made it 53% of the time, a 6% decrease. In Reading in 2008, 35% of our high school graduates met the benchmark. In 2012, only 34% met the test. During that period, Mississippi spent $10 billion dollars on primary education.
You are the employers for Mississippi. All of you worry about providing sufficient money for education and the growing cost of healthcare. You have the right to be worried.
To grow our economy, we must have an educated workforce and access to capital. What we have is a reduction in reading and writing and tight capital.
To meet the funding needs for education, both primary and secondary, healthcare, and all other government resources, we face a daunting task.
Clearly, we are not going to get there by raising taxes in a State where over 660,000 people today are on food stamps. This is an increase from 451,127 on food stamps just four (4) years ago. I guarantee you those 200,000 people would rather receive a paycheck than a food stamp. About 21% of Mississippi’s population is now on food stamps. Over 32% of our children live in poverty every day.
So, where do we go from here? I wish there was 1 button to push, but there is not. There are a number of good proposals, but here are a couple ideas which come to mind.
First, we will not create a qualified workforce, and the parents and families that come from such a workforce, by solely providing dollars. Businesses, small and large, must be involved in the education process on the local school boards of education, at their PTA meetings, and they must become fully integrated in the education system. Education needs to run like a business to generate the skills required to educate our young citizens. Simply paying your taxes will not be enough. If you are not on the school board or meeting with your principals and teachers demanding quality education, you should assume we will maintain the status quo. If you do not demand education for our next generation, you are committing to mediocrity and you will not be competitive.
Secondly, we must streamline State government to make effective use of our limited dollars. It appears Mississippi is run by four (4) branches of government–the Legislative Branch, the Judicial Branch, the Executive Branch, and Agency Boards and Commissions. There are 200 agency boards and commissions. They cover licensing of everything from lawyers to acupuncture, from education to archives and history. From ports and harbors to mental health. There are over 1,440 board members. They are appointed by everyone from members of the board of supervisors, the State elected officials, Speaker of the House, the Lieutenant Governor and some are even self-perpetuating. There are over 20 agency, boards and commissions devoted to various arts and cultural affairs throughout the State.
What is even more amazing about the 4th branch of government is that much of it was formed to be isolated from politics. We now find it isolated from the electorate.
How many of you appoint your board of directors for 4 years? How many for 5 years? How many for 7 years? Or even for 9 years? Not one of you sitting here would do that.
Further, there is virtually no recall for any appointed board member.
The great majority of the members of these agencies, boards and commissions are good public servants, working only for mileage reimbursement and maybe lunch. But, almost none of them are elected or removable by anyone who is elected after they are appointed.
Even with good board members, this system cannot perpetuate.
Change in the status quo is difficult. Change will only come if you demand it. It will only come if you push that button. Without immediate accountability, we will lose the immediate opportunity for change to face our challenges.
I still believe in Mississippi and I am devoting a good bit of my life to our State.
You do too or you would not be sitting in these chairs. Let’s take a chance on Mississippi.
Let’s take a chance on streamlining how our State does business and how our education performs.
Let’s push that button.”