- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 17, 2017

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant received some praise and some criticism for his 2017 State of the State speech, which he gave Tuesday night at the Capitol:

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State Treasurer Lynn Fitch, a Republican, said she agreed with Bryant’s call for legislators to be careful with spending. Fitch said she wants a state constitutional amendment that would tighten the budget process. “It was an excellent overview,” Fitch said of the speech.

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Attorney General Jim Hood, a Democrat, praised Bryant’s emphasis on improving the foster care system, which has been enmeshed in litigation for years. He said he wanted to hear Bryant offer a specific proposal for how to use revenue from a lottery, if one is created. “As far as how to fix some of these things, I wanted to hear some details about how you raise revenue to pay for things like mental health,” Hood said.

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Rep. Andy Gipson, R-Braxton, said Bryant took a positive tone in the speech. “There’s a lot of good news about Mississippi,” Gipson said. However, Gipson, an ordained Baptist minister, said he continues to oppose a lottery. “To me, it’s a drop in the bucket for our size state.”

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Rep. Kabir Karriem, D-Columbus, said he wanted to hear Bryant talk about changing the state flag, which prominently features the Confederate battle emblem. Karriem also said he wanted to hear about criminal justice reform. “I’m very supportive of a lottery,” Karriem said. “It passed the House last session and I think that’s a move in the right direction.”

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Sen. Michael Watson, R-Pascagoula, praised Bryant’s call to put damages collected from the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill into a special savings account. “The coast economy is still not recovered.”

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Rep. Oscar Denton, D-Vicksburg, said he supports creating a lottery but he wants revenue earmarked for education or transportation. Denton’s hometown is across the Mississippi River from Louisiana, and he said traffic on the river bridge picks up noticeably when the Louisiana Lottery has a big prize. He said: “When it is up over $100 million, you can’t get into those places” that sell lottery tickets.

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Rep. Rob Roberson, R-Starkville, also said he would like to see a lottery with the money it generates being dedicated to schools or roads. “We’ve got to come up with additional revenue streams,” Roberson said.

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Rep. Gregory Holloway, D-Hazlehurst, said he wanted to hear more details about education. Holloway said he agreed it is “imperative” that lawmakers pay for a new incoming class of state troopers. “I wanted him to talk about an internet sales tax. I think if we had been able to do that and get some of that funding, we would be in better shape financially.”

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Rep. Jay Hughes, D-Oxford, criticized the speech. “I heard pro-education instead of pro-public education,” Hughes said. “We’re still in 50th place. If we’re seeking a different result, we have to do something different.”


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