Running for governor, Tate Reeves touted the successes achieved over eight years with Phil Bryant as governor and himself as Lt. Governor.
“All of these (good) things don’t just happen,” Reeves told the Delta Business Journal. “It happens because conservative public policy works. I’m running for governor to continue to invest in our priorities and to continue to make Mississippi an even better place to invest capital, an even better place to create jobs, and ultimately an even better place to raise a family.”
After Bryant endorsed him, Reeves said, “I’m looking forward to continuing our efforts to help Mississippi workers and families as governor.”
Well, maybe not so much continuation. Turns out that eight year record has some blemishes.
The prison crisis: Riots and mounting deaths have exposed a deep-rooted crisis in the Mississippi Department of Corrections, a crisis resulting from Bryant and Reeves policies and budget cuts over that eight year period. Problems in the prison system are complex and will be costly to fix.
No success story to continue there.
Department of Human Services embezzlement: State Auditor Shad White revealed a multi-million dollar embezzlement and misappropriation of federal funds involving the Mississippi Community Education Center (MCEC). John Davis, the former Department of Human Services executive director, was arrested on charges of fraud and embezzlement. Davis was appointed by Bryant and confirmed by Reeves’ senate. MCEC’s director, assistant director, and business manager were also arrested for embezzlement. Somehow, once Davis took over DHS, millions of federal TANF dollars found their way to MCEC. Allegedly these dollars funded a former wrestler’s expensive rehab at a luxury clinic in Malibu and $5 million went for a volleyball facility at Davis’s and Bryant’s alma mater, the University of Southern Mississippi.
The yet untold story of how these millions in federal funds suddenly found their way to MCEC is no success story to continue either.
Low wage jobs: Both Bryant and Reeves have touted record employment and job growth as key successes. A Washington Post analysis comparing Alabama’s progress to Mississippi’s revealed a telling blemish. “Both states rely heavily on production and manufacturing jobs, often in industries vulnerable to trade disputes and global turmoil. But Mississippi relies more on low-wage versions of these production jobs than does any state in the union.”
The analysis says Alabama, “on the other hand diversified beyond low-skilled manufacturing when its base began to erode in the 1990s.” Alabama now ranks near the top in its reliance on higher-paid manufacturing jobs.
Not exactly a success story to continue, either.
In each of these cases Reeves will be challenged not to continue the past but to significantly change future directions. Prisons were under federal court oversight for decades and face new federal scrutiny now. Mississippi’s abuse of federal TANF funds will not only have its day in criminal court but will also face federal review. And Mississippi’s not-really-so-terrific economy needs a major upgrade.
Act one of how this will play out will be Reeves’ picks to head MDOC, MDA and DHS (attorney Bob Anderson named last week). The subsequent new and improved stories promise to be interesting.
“Every way of a man is right in his own eyes” – Proverbs 21:2.
» BILL CRAWFORD is a syndicated columnist from Meridian.
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