Speaker Gunn at MEC Capitol Day

Education Accomplishments and Continuation of Infrastructure Conversation

JACKSON – Today, Speaker of the House Philip Gunn addressed statewide elected officials, legislators and business and community leaders from around the State at the annual MEC Capitol Day. He discussed education accomplishments and Mississippi’s roads and bridges.

Remarks as prepared:

Education Accomplishments Since 2012

o Third Grade Reading Gate
o A-F school grading
o Early Learning Collaborative
o Dyslexia Therapy Scholarship
o Speech-Language Therapy Scholarship
o Charter Schools/Expansion
o Special Needs ESA
o Teacher Pay Raise Act
o Increased funding of Teacher Supply Fund
o Appointed superintendents
o Highest level of funding in the history of the State

Roads and Bridges

I want to discuss your number one issue as stated by your leadership, roads and bridges. There has been a lot of talk and concern about this issue. I’m going to be really transparent about it.
This is a difficult issue and finding a solution is going to be difficult. A number of questions need to be answered:

What is the extent of the need? We need to come to an agreement.
Is there enough money within current revenues to meet that need or a portion of that need? Can we find further efficiencies in government to free up additional dollars?
What is the solution to that need?

The only solutions presented to me involve increases in taxes and fees. Everyone needs to understand that such a solution requires 74 votes to pass. Those people who have presented such solutions to me have not presented any evidence that they have the 74 votes to pass such a plan. You can see the difficulty in reaching a solution for this issue.

Let’s consider this in light of the current political climate. The people of this state have continued to elect conservatives, primarily Republicans, in vast numbers. We’ve actually seen the numbers of Republicans increase with every election, to the point that Republicans now have a supermajority in the MS House of Representatives. There has been a consistent march toward conservative government and leadership.

These are legislators that many, if not most, of you have supported.

These are legislators who have:

Stood for lower taxes.
Supported creating a business friendly environment.
Reduced tax burdens.
Reduced the Franchise Tax.
Budgeted to live within our means.
Eliminated debt.
Stood firm on Tort Reform.

All of these things are issues that you have supported. They have all created that economic prosperity that this organization advocates.

So when the only plans on infrastructure presented involve tax or fee increases, you can see why it is a heavy lift to move in that direction. It is difficult to get a coalition to vote together on things like that. Again, no one has come to me with a plan that has the votes necessary to pass it.

Recently, I met with some of my constituents who came forward with a list of 27 requests. I counted them. Their final ask, “Do all this for us, but don’t raise taxes.” You can see, again, the difficulty that exists.

So, let me be clear on where I am on this. I am here to assure you that I am engaging in conversations about this issue. It will never be said that Philip Gunn did not take this issue seriously and was not involved in trying to find a solution.

I am going to actively and personally be involved in exploring a solution.

In fact, I have met with numerous groups and individuals:

Joe Sanderson

I will have meetings with the Roadbuilders and Petroleum Marketers. I’m going to reach out to U.S. Senators Cochran and Wicker to explore federal help.

I don’t know what the solution is, but I am personally going to work on it. It may not happen this year, but I am going to keep working on it until we find it. I don’t want it to be said that Philip Gunn wasn’t engaged on roads.

I am engaged.