Governor Barbour's State of the State Address
From: Office of the Governor GCN
January 9, 2006
Editor's Note: The
following is the text of Governor Haley Barbour's State of the State
Address presented to the Legislature January 9th:
"Thank you. Lt. Governor Tuck, Speaker McCoy, ladies and gentlemen of the
Legislature, fellow Mississippians. Thank you for being here for my third
State of the State address.
I apologize for being hoarse, but I struggled with a bad cold last
week*sore throat and all. For you Legislators who think that means my
speech will be shorter than last year*don't get your hopes up!
Last year, I opened my State of the State speech by saying, "It is my
privilege to report the State of the State is better today than it was
last year but not as good as it will be this time next year."
In the wake of Katrina, the worst natural disaster in American history,
and all the destruction she caused as she made a direct hit on the
Mississippi Gulf Coast and slashed through south Mississippi and up
through the eastern half of the state, in what condition do we find
One thing is spectacularly better than a year ago: The return of
Mississippi's 155th Brigade Combat Team from its very successful duty in
Iraq. The last few will be home within a week, and several are here with
All of us grieve for the families of the fourteen Mississippi Guardsmen
who made the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq for the cause of freedom, and I
ask that we observe a moment of silent prayer in their honor and memory.
The 155th performed its mission exceptionally well; so we are not only
glad to have them home, we applaud their achievements.
When I visited their four forward operating bases in Iraq during the
Thanksgiving holiday, I learned they had so successfully cleaned out and
cleaned up their area -- which was called "The Triangle of Death" when
they were assigned to it in 2004 * that in November, Iraqi Security Forces
were conducting the operations the 155th had carried out back in the
spring. Their success and that of others like them is why US troops are
coming home, turning over their duties to Iraqi forces. Congratulations,
155th, on a job well done.
In the year and a half prior to Katrina, that this Legislature and my
Administration had been in office, the state of our state improved
significantly and demonstrably.
During that period, on our watch so to speak, the state's economy grew at
the fastest rate since 1995; personal income of Mississippians increased
faster than in any year since 1998; and employment * the number of people
working * went up the most since 1999.
Those improvements in the state's economic situation not only helped
Mississippi families and businesses; they also helped Mississippi's
The year you and I ran for office, the state's budget had a $700 million
shortfall, a gap equal to 20% of general fund revenue; special funds were
raided in the amount of $270 million; one time money was spent on
recurring expenses to the tune of hundreds of millions.
The budget you passed in May nearly achieved structural balance, quite an
accomplishment in only two years, and it dipped into special funds by only
a fraction of the 2003 total. In fact, based on actual revenues collected
in the current fiscal year, full structural balance would be achieved in
this budget year.
Another major achievement in state finances is that last fiscal year, the
state's bonded indebtedness actually declined for the first time in 18
years. I congratulate State Treasurer Tate Reeves on the job he is doing
managing our debt.
The two keys to returning the government to financial balance have been
and will continue to be controlling state government spending and
increasing state revenue through economic growth and job creation.
Remember, we've eliminated this $700 million budget hole without raising
I recognize the Legislature has had to make some hard choices*some
politically unpopular decisions, and I commend you. The budget for the
current fiscal year actually sets spending at 1.75% less than spending for
The second key to digging out of the deep budget hole we found ourselves
in has been economic growth. State revenues grew only 2% the year you and
I started our 2003 campaigns. The first year of this Legislature and
Administration, tax revenue went up 4%; last year it increased nearly 8%.
Revenue increases doubled two years in a row, even though we didn't raise
anybody's taxes. And I hope this makes it easy for you and our viewers to
understand why I'm against raising anybody's taxes. I expect the viewers
also understand that in a period fiscal uncertainty this is not the time
to reduce revenue by cutting taxes either.
Again, I want to commend you, the Legislature, for making tough
decisions. One reason our economy improved and revenue increased was tort
reform, which caused insurance rates to fall. Another reason was the
reform and increased funding of workforce development and job training.
Your passage of the initial Momentum Mississippi legislation will help
continue economic growth and stimulate job creation and retention.
Getting state spending under control has also been essential to business
confidence and maintaining our bond rating.
While the jury is still out on the effects Katrina will ultimately have on
our budget, the verdict is clear that Katrina brought out the best in most
Beginning the very night of the storm, my wife Marsha began going to the
Coast; working with first responders; finding help for people with special
needs; encouraging local officials. She became my eyes and ears, and I'm
very proud of you*and grateful to her. One day the SunHerald ran a story
referring to Marsha as "an angel among us."
It was Marsha who first described to me the strength, resilience and
self-reliance of the affected people; who told me about both the can-do
spirit and the pervasive selflessness she found.
Indeed the single biggest factor in the amazing response to Katrina has
been the spirit of Mississippians. From the fateful day of August 29
through every stage of search and rescue, relief, recovery, rebuilding*the
affected people in South Mississippi and especially on the Coast have been
Our people didn't whine or mope around; they're not into victimhood.
Immediately after the storm passed through, they hitched up their britches
and began helping themselves and helping their neighbors. The stories of
ordinary people performing extraordinary acts of courage and selflessness
are extremely common. The first responders, law enforcement, national
guard, and military; but also neighbors helping neighbors, churches
helping the needy and poor people more interested in others getting
assistance. That Mississippi spirit was obvious to people across the
country and around the world.
I salute the local elected officials who stayed put, made decisions before
as well as after Katrina. Those decisions saved lives, as did the
thousands of inland families who took in friends and family before the
hurricane struck. The death toll, while large, was remarkably low
compared to the enormity of the devastation; the decisiveness of local
officials in ordering evacuations played a major role in that. And those
local officials deserve immense credit for the fact that continuity of
government never broke down in Mississippi as it could have. Those local
governments stood tall, and we are going to stand with them, now and in
Three of those outstanding officials are here with us. They are School
Superintendents who got their schools back open in record time, helping
Mississippians return to their communities and begin rebuilding. Let me
introduce Kim Stasny from Bay St. Louis/Waveland, Rucks Robinson from
Jackson County and Glen East from Gulfport.
Before discussing our plans to help the devastated areas rebuild and renew
themselves, I must again thank the American people for their help.
Katrina, the worst natural disaster ever to hit America, appropriately
generated the greatest outpouring of philanthropy and assistance in our
country's history. And that generosity has made a huge difference in our
relief and recovery. Corporate America and small businesses,
philanthropists and everyday citizens have been incredibly generous; and
we genuinely appreciate everyone, especially the thousands and thousands
of volunteers who've helped.
But I must single out the churches and faith-based groups, who were there
on day one and are still there in meaningful numbers today. Theirs were
the most powerful and productive efforts, and I must say hundreds of those
volunteers * Protestants, Catholics, Jews and believers of other faiths *
told me that by God's grace they feel they got more out of their mission
than the people they were helping. What a great blessing these groups,
churches, and volunteers have been.
And I'd be remiss not to mention the crucial contributions of our sister
states. Those Governors, Democrats and Republicans, sent us their state's
resources in an unprecedented manner, and they made a difference.
There has been plenty of controversy about the federal role in relief and
recovery. While it hasn't been perfect, and in fact couldn't be, the
federal agencies have done a lot more right than wrong. The Coast Guard's
helicopter crews, the U.S. Department of Transportation's fuel supplies,
the Seabees and their expertise all made a huge difference at critical
The President has repeatedly extended deadlines for emergency relief and
debris removal that provide hundreds of millions of federal assistance
dollars. The Bush Administration proposed an unprecedented package of
assistance to help the states and people affected by Katrina. And on
behalf of a grateful state, I thank President Bush.
A last chapter on the verdict of the effects of Katrina relates to our
Congressional delegation, the 109th Congress and its leadership.
Mississippi's delegation worked ceaselessly to get us the assistance we
need. Every member, Republican and Democrat; House and Senate. My office
and the delegation worked together on a regular, bipartisan basis, and I
appreciate the helpful attitude of all six members.
At the end of the day, a few weeks later than had been hoped, Congress
passed and the President signed two unprecedented laws to help Mississippi
and the Gulf Region not only recover and rebuild but to renew itself. A
third important bill will be up for final passage later this month.
The United States government has never given anything like this much money
or nearly this much latitude to a state as Mississippi receives under this
I briefed the Legislature on the details last week, but for our viewers,
the Katrina emergency appropriations bill will spend nearly 10 billion in
federal dollars in Mississippi, over and above the $15-$17 billion already
destined to be spent here under existing federal disaster assistance laws.
Most unprecedented is a program that will allow the state to use
approximately $4 billion of federal grant money to help homeowners whose
homes were outside the flood plain but were destroyed by Katrina's storm
surge. This was the top priority of the State and for our Congressional
delegation, and, even though it had never been allowed before, Congress
passed it and the President signed it.
The bill contains funds for highway and bridge reconstruction, to support
law enforcement, for environmental restoration, to rebuild our military
facilities and for naval shipbuilding. Unprecedented funds for social
services and for economic and community development programs are included.
Critically, Congress, with the Bush Administration's support, amended the
original education support provisions so Mississippi would get appropriate
assistance for our schools, which have been back open for months. This
change was critically important to our state, and we appreciate Secretary
of Education Margaret Spellings for helping us get this change made.
Almost simultaneously, Congress passed the Gulf Opportunity Zone Act,
which the President had proposed to stimulate private investment in our
area. I expect the tax incentives in this law to be extremely important
to the rebuilding and renewal of our affected areas. The tax incentives
for projects in Mississippi are expected to total in excess of $8 billion,
and they will both stimulate essential private sector investment and
Our whole delegation worked hard for these bills, but I must specifically
thank Senator Thad Cochran, who, as Chairman of the Senate Appropriations
Committee, patiently and effectively guided this unparalleled
appropriations bill to passage. It is a giant tribute to Thad's ability
and stature that our state is being entrusted with these much needed
The tax bill * the Gulf Opportunity Zone Act * got hung up in the Senate.
By the force of his personality and leadership, Senator Trent Lott single
handedly broke the logjam and got the law passed.
No state has a pair of U.S. Senators near the equal of Thad Cochran and
Trent Lott. They made us proud last month, during our state's hour of
greatest need. We owe them a great debt of gratitude.
We also owe them, the delegation, the entire Congress and the
Administration good stewardship of these billions of taxpayer dollars. I
take this opportunity to report on behalf of our State, Mississippi will
be a good steward of the taxpayers' money. We are putting into place
systems of controls and accountability. We will be held accountable to
spend these funds in a reasonable and responsible manner. We will meet
Because of our Congressional delegation and the federal legislation, we
will have the resources we need to rebuild and renew. Because we have
strong leaders in local government in the affected areas, continuity of
government was never lost and recovery makes progress everyday. And
because of the love and commitment of citizens to their communities on the
Coast and in South Mississippi, our schools are operating, small
businesses are back open, and the vast majority of the people are back in
their home communities. All these things cannot help but make one
optimistic about the future.
Another special factor makes me even more confident: The work of the
Commission on Recovery, Rebuilding, and Renewal. I want to recognize Jim
Barksdale, who has done a magnificent job of leading this Commission. Its
work has exceeded my greatest expectation.
I was sent the Commission report on December 30, on schedule. It is more
than impressive, and it will be * already is * extremely useful as the
affected areas go forward.
Importantly, the report is the product of an inclusive, participatory,
collaborative process in which literally thousands of Mississippians took
part. Although the Commission's report won't be available to you and the
public until Wednesday, let me mention a few major issues I will ask you
to consider after you read the report:
Authorizing the formation of regional organizations for delivery of
certain public services, as has previously been authorized and implemented
by the DeSoto County Regional Utility Authority;
Innovative transportation projects that improve evacuation when future
storms hit; that divert traffic from Highway 90, so it can again be a
tourist-attracting Beach Boulevard; and that allow the Port of Gulfport to
recover and rebuild as a stronger maritime cargo operation; and
Helping the local governments get back on their feet financially.
On this last point, it is critical to recognize the difference between the
fiscal condition of the State and that of many local governments in the
lower six counties. At the state level there remains some uncertainty
about both revenue and needed expenditures, but as, you will see, of now
the State is in good shape on both counts.
On the other hand a number of local governments are drowning from both
required extra expenditures and definite losses of revenue. They are
borrowing from both the State and federal governments. It will be years
before their ad valorem taxes come back, even though there is likely to be
a great surge of construction and development in these communities.
To deal with this I will ask the Legislature to authorize * authorize, not
require * impact fees to be assessed by these local governments on new
development projects in their communities. This will have the effect of
advancing revenue on these developments so the local governments can
provide services and, indeed, survive.
During the Katrina Special Session in September, the Legislature
authorized me to form an office within the Governor's Office related to
recovery, rebuilding, and renewal. I have done that. Because the
September legislation did not provide funding or personnel slots, I am
paying for this with no state funds. That is not said in the nature of a
complaint; it is appropriate that we use federal funds to pay for this
office; a part of its mission is to maximize federal funding.
I'd like to introduce Dr. Gavin Smith, Director of the Governor's Office
of Recovery and Renewal, and Brian Sanderson, his deputy.
I expect this office's work with state and local government entities to
pay major dividends. I also appreciate State Auditor Phil Bryant for the
help his office has been giving local governments in the areas of
accountability and documentation of emergency efforts.
For all these reasons and efforts, I'm very bullish on where South
Mississippi and the Coast will be in 2, 5, 20 and 30 years. We have a
mighty tall mountain in front of us, but that Mississippi Spirit leaves me
no doubt about the outcome.
I am pleased to tell you that even in the wake of Katrina, the budget you
adopted for the year appears to be holding up. There is still some
uncertainty, which is why I think most everybody believes we should not
try to do the budget and appropriations until March.
But halfway through the fiscal year, as of December 31, actual revenue
collected was $80 million above the estimate on which this year's budget
was based. We don't know if this growth will continue, but the overage is
enough to cover the principal planned budget shortfall, which is in debt
service. While we had foreseen and believed before Katrina that actual
revenue would more than cover this shortfall, I'm pleased to report that,
so far, that's holding up.
I'm also pleased to report that despite Katrina, no major state department
or agency is overspending its current budget; therefore, there is no
reason for any deficit appropriation, except for debt service, because
actual spending through the end of December is within the amounts
consistent with the budget you passed in May.
The ability of our departments and agencies to manage within their budgets
is a great testament to their leaders and the state's employees. And this
has been accomplished despite the fact some legislative provisions have
actually made it much more difficult for them than it should be to stay
within their budgets. I will ask you to lift those counterproductive
restrictions so our state's public servants can produce more for our
citizens. Still, you can see why I hope our budget situation in March
will allow a pay raise for our state employees this year. And I hope
we'll be able to give them another increase next year. They've earned
it. They deserve it.
As preeminent as Katrina and its effects are on our agenda, we have all of
the state and other important issues to address between now and the end of
This year we must address the needs of our foster care system and the more
than 3000 vulnerable children and families it serves. The provision of
quality foster care is difficult but critical, especially when not only
Katrina's destruction but also the explosion of crystal methamphetamine
and other narcotics have significantly increased the number of children
needing foster care.
I will ask the Legislature to pass bills to increase both the number and
quality of social workers actively involved in direct care, so resources
are used more effectively to insure the foster care system is improved.
Shifting our focus, I want to talk to you about an industry and an area
that require special attention: Our furniture manufacturing industry
located largely in Northeast Mississippi.
The Franklin Center for Furniture Manufacturing and Management at
Mississippi State reports our state's furniture manufacturing firms employ
some 27,000 people, down from 31,000 in the late 90's. That 12% job loss
is far less than the job losses that have occurred in the case goods
industry in Virginia and the Carolinas, but it is a clear warning.
According to the Franklin Center, we must learn how our competitive
advantages can be maintained and improved on. I am committed to
increasing our advantages and keeping our $4.1 billion furniture industry
healthy, and employing Mississippians.
We began two years ago. The furniture industry told former Commerce
Secretary Don Evans and me in 2003 that improving workforce quality was
the best way to help the industry stay healthy. You know all that's been
done to achieve that, and I know the industry appreciates the
Tort reform has helped control their cost of doing business. No tax
increases also has helped keep those costs down. We've helped create a
foreign trade zone for Northeast Mississippi to reduce costs for
Mississippi companies that use it.
Tonight, I propose using funds you made available when you passed Momentum
Mississippi legislation last summer, to help our furniture manufacturers
qualify to get the benefits of the Foreign Trade Zone. We'll match
companies dollar for dollar for their costs in applying, activating,
training and commencing Foreign Trade Zone participation. It is estimated
this program will save some 2000 jobs at a cost to the state of only half
million dollars or so.
We will also assist the Tupelo Furniture Market in its national and
international promotion in the amount of $200,000 a year, based again on a
50-50 cost share. These funds also will come from Momentum Mississippi
legislation. And let me introduce Anthony Topazi, Chairman of Momentum
The furniture industry is hugely important to all of Mississippi. Some
people seem to have given up on it; I haven't. And I oppose using the
challenges facing the furniture industry as an excuse to pit the economic
development project of one part of the state against the projects of the
rest of the state. As a candidate for Governor, I said I wouldn't play
favorites among the efforts by different parts of the state to attract
jobs. I said it, and I meant it.
There is another part of the state about which I'm concerned; one I feel
it is crucial to help. The area is our Capital City and Hinds County.
Recently, Mayor Frank Melton and Sheriff Malcolm McMillin came to see me.
They asked if I'd help them fight crime, especially drug and gun crime in
The Sheriff and the Mayor are here with us. I'm pleased to recognize
them. I'm more pleased to propose we in state government help our Capitol
City become a greater asset to our state as well as a better home to its
citizens . I ask the Legislature to pass a bill to allow the Governor to
appoint a Special Circuit Judge for Hinds County solely for the purpose of
hearing criminal cases involving drugs and guns. This is what the Mayor
and the Sheriff believe is needed; it is what they've asked for.
Why? The Hinds County jail facilities are so overloaded that misdemeanor
criminals aren't even incarcerated. They're filled with felons awaiting
trial, and the number of untried felons has increased 18% in three years.
But Hinds County has lost population, so, under our regular system of
adding judges, which is based on population, the statistics say Hinds
County doesn't need more judges. But those statistics are wrong. Don't
take my word for it; ask the Mayor and the Sheriff, the fellows who have
to deal with drug and gun crime here in Jackson.
Here are the facts:
In November, the Hinds County facility in Raymond was over its federal
court allowed limit by 43, and 98% of capacity were indicted pre-trial
Criminals go for years without a trial;
The overcrowding and delay led the Public Defender's Office to say "The
deals get better for my clients;"
The cost will be less than $200,000 per year, a bargain if it helps reduce
drug crime and gun crime in Jackson.
After I was elected and before I was inaugurated, Attorney General Jim
Hood and I discussed the problems facing criminal justice in Hinds County,
and he was very helpful. If you allow the appointment of the judge for a
limited period, I've discussed with the Attorney General insuring there
are enough prosecutors to get criminals prosecuted in the Court
effectively. I appreciate his help and concern about this problem.
The last issue I want to discuss is the biggest priority we have year in
and year out. Even in the wake of Katrina we all know we must continue to
improve our education system.
Last year, the Legislature considered my UpGrade Education reform
proposal. It was developed with strong support from my 250 member
Teachers Advisory Commission. These leaders of the commission are here:
Tanza Brown, Josie Williams, and Larry Perdue
I'm grateful that last year the Senate passed it 95% intact with only two
votes against it. The House passed it about 80% in that again by a huge
margin. However, there was never a conference report, so I will be asking
you to consider it this year.
I believe the proposals are not only good policy but will also
significantly improve education in Mississippi.
You will recall the leaders of K-12, community colleges, and universities
endorsed UpGrade last year. I've been working on this with them again,
though we have a couple of new leaders in place. I want to recognize and
thank them for guiding me on these issues. Let me introduce State
Superintendent Dr. Hank Bounds; Community and Junior College Director Dr.
Wayne Stonecyper; and the Commissioner of Higher Education Dr. Tom
Meredith. They are a very talented and dedicated group, and I appreciate
their tireless efforts.
Education is the number one economic development issue and the number one
quality of life issue in our state. It is rightly our top priority. We
spend 62% of our budget on education. While this year overall budgeted
state spending is lower than last year, our school teachers have received
a second consecutive 8% pay raise, and they are making 30% more than five
years ago. State spending on K-12 education is 7.2%, or $143 million,
higher than last year. Per student spending in our public schools is more
than $7000 this year, a record amount.
K-12 spending will increase again, but I urge the Legislature to give
special attention and priority to higher education needs when we take up
the budget in March. While we have had large and appropriate increases in
spending for public schools in the last several years, state spending for
universities and community colleges has gone down significantly over the
same period. But, again, March is the time to take up such budget
issues. The UpGrade reforms are not about funding; they are about
Liberate successful schools and give them home rule. Here is an example
of why: In 1994, the Gulfport School District wanted to purchase revenue
interruption insurance in case a hurricane devastated their local tax
base. But then-Attorney General Mike Moore correctly told them that
because the school district did not have home rule, they did not have the
authority to make that wise decision.
Focus on dropout prevention. About 40% of Mississippi school children
drop out before they graduate. Think what a difference even a small
reduction in the drop out rate would mean.
Prioritize teacher recruitment and retention. Nothing is as important as
a quality teacher in every classroom.
Recognize discipline is a big problem in many schools, and as my 250
member Teacher Advisory Committee has told me, more young teachers leave
teaching over discipline than over pay.
Hold parents accountable for the behavior of their children.
Institute a pay for performance program like North Carolina has to reward
increases in learning achievement.
Redesign high school so every student who desires to can get at least a
semester worth of college credit in his or her senior year of high school.
Expand the dual enrollment program and make advanced placement classes
available in every school within three years.
Especially in light of the Cisco and Bell South investments, we must
expand the use of technology, online education and distance learning so
every child can have access to the best education.
These are several of the goals of my UpGrade Education reform package.
I'm grateful to Senate Education Committee Chairman Mike Chaney and House
Education Committee Chairman Cecil Brown for their counsel on this package
and for their consideration of it.
I ask every legislator to support the final product. I believe as you
review it, you will see that it is a common-sense, positive reform that
will improve education in Mississippi, not for some but for all.
My speech has covered a variety of subjects * from renaissance after
Katrina to cracking down on drug crime to improving education, our
None of these issues or solutions is political or partisan. These are my
ideas about what we should do to improve our state and the lives of
Mississippians. I offer them with no agenda except that I think they are
good policy, and I ask you to receive them that way. That ought to be one
effect of Katrina on all our activities.
It is not lost on me that Jim Barksdale, who chaired my Commission on
Recovery, Rebuilding, and Renewal after Katrina, was also my opponent's
biggest contributor. That was irrelevant to him and to me; the point is
Jim Barksdale wants to help Mississippi, and he was, as he proved, the
best man for the job.
Our quest for renewal has produced many such efforts to help, by people
who have historically been political opponents. That has been so healthy
and so productive.
It is an extension of that Mississippi Spirit; that can do attitude of
helping ourselves but also helping our neighbors. It still is an
inspiration to me and I hope it inspires everyone to see what Mississippi
can be* will be* must be.
Last year's gigantic catastrophe, with all its destruction, gave birth to
a renaissance in Mississippi that will surely result in rebuilding our
state bigger and better than ever before, but I believe it will also
spread prosperity and dignity across more of our citizens than ever
before. I ask you to embrace that vision."