Mississippi Democratic Party Chairman Jamie Franks today released the following response to Gov. Barbour’s State of the State address:

“Mississippi is like a lot of other states right now: We’re facing dire economic times. For that reason, it is imperative that our leaders on both sides of the political aisle work together to help craft a budget that funds key services, spends wisely from our reserve funds and puts us in a position to grow once the economy improves.

“Gov. Barbour has already signaled that he is not readily willing to compromise. This became evident during the first week of the session when the governor requested unfettered authority to cut any state budget at his discretion. When the House leadership offered him 90 percent of what he wanted, he said it was not enough.

“If our leaders are to pull the state from this financial brink, then Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant and Gov. Haley Barbour must take a bi-partisan approach to legislating. Their our-way-or-the-highway approach is not healthy for the state, and it will not be productive.

“After all, six years of Haley Barbour and four years of Phil Bryant have led the state into this financial crisis. Their failed economic policies — both in bringing in new jobs and diversifying our revenue streams — have left us at a great disadvantage as unemployment in Mississippi has skyrocketed to record levels and tax revenues have hit record lows.”

“Our goal should be not to recover but to flourish. If we cut public education to the bone, if we decimate our health care systems and if we destroy the programs that help those who can’t help themselves, then we will have failed the people of Mississippi.

“I believe in a Mississippi where we invest in our young people in order to realize a brighter future; where our first thought for the sick is “how can we help”, not “how much does it cost?”; and where hard work is rewarded but the less fortunate are never punished.

“I know the people of Mississippi to value hard work, moral principles and opportunities to succeed. We want good schools, safe homes and good-paying jobs. Riches here are good friends and healthy families. And in the toughest times, Mississippians stand tall and face adversity head-on.

“Our leaders in Jackson have a choice: They can punish our school children by cutting public education; they can lock up the sick by cutting mental health; they can shatter the hopes of our poorest citizens by cutting Medicaid. In short, they can take the easy way out by slashing government services and hoping things get better before there are no services left to cut.

“Or, our leaders can seek every alternative to the slash-and-burn policies proposed by Gov. Barbour. They can spend wisely from our Rainy Day funds, for the economic forecast is stormy. They can bring our fee structure in line with our cost structure. They can accept the help of the federal stimulus package in these difficult times. They can work together to weather this storm, because tomorrow can be a brighter day.

“Without doubt, tough decisions must be made. Budget cuts cannot be avoided. We will have to reign in our spending, prioritize and go without. But we must do this as one, with both sides working together to forge the best path for recovery.

“I hope our Republican leaders will join the Democratic leaders in this spirit of bipartisanship. I hope that we can work together to do what’s best and what’s right, without regard to political advantages. Too much is at stake, and the times are too tough to be successful any other way.”