Delbert Hosemann, moments after being sworn in for his second term as lieutenant governor, cited three issues he said must be addressed during the next four-year term for Mississippi to prosper.
Those issues are:
- Improving Mississippi’s workforce participation rate, which at 53.8% is the worst in the county.
- Ensuring the state’s public pension plan is financially viable.
- Addressing the state’s health care crisis. He said addressing the crisis in “a shotgun approach is not the answer. A comprehensive approach is.”
On Thursday afternoon during a joint session of the Mississippi Legislature, the seven statewide elected officials other than the governor were sworn in for a new four-year term. Gov. Tate Reeves, who attended the pomp and circumstance Thursday, will be sworn in Tuesday afternoon during another joint session on the grounds of the state Capitol.
It is tradition for the lieutenant governor to offer comments to the joint session after he is sworn in. Hosemann kept his remarks short, but used them to challenge legislators to tackle problems he cited. He said, based on their accomplishments during the past four years, that they could solve those problems.
He said Mississippi’s low workforce participation rate — people able to work who are not — is not economically sustainable. The key, he said, is educating people and imposing workforce skills.
“Economic development will wilt without an educated work force to sustain it,” Hosemann said. He said education must be adequately funded from pre-kindergarten up. He again proposed “the last dollar tuition program” that will ensure all students who meet a certain grade point average and other requirements will be able to attend community college tuition free.
Hosemann addressed education and health care, but made no direct comment on some of the big issues that could be debated during the legislative session – such as providing vouchers for students to attend private school or expanding Medicaid to provide health care for primarily the working poor.
But Hosemann did say that it was the responsibility of the Legislature to ensure the Public Employees Retirement System remains viable. PERS provides retirement benefits for most state and local government employees, including schoolteachers.
“This absolute obligation of the state will drive most of your decisions this year and in the future,” Hosemann told legislators. Providing more state funds for PERS is expected to be a major issue during the 2024 session.
In ending the joint assembly, Hosemann told legislators, “We have a bright future … It is just whether we are going to achieve it or not. I see in this room the ability to do that.”
Hosemann also reiterated his comments from four years ago, saying that too often in the past the rotunda has been a roadblock keeping the House and Senate from working together. He said four years ago there were walkways around that rotunda that go both ways.
“We will continue to use those walkways,” Hosemann said.
The other statewide officials sworn in were:
- Secretary of State Michael Watson
- Attorney General Lynn Fitch
- Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney
- Auditor Shad White
- Treasurer David McRae
- Agriculture Commissioner Andy Gipson
All eight elected statewide officials are incumbents.
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