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Hosemann reflects on wins, losses in 2024 session

This article first appeared on the Magnolia Tribune.

Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann meets with press to provide an overview of the accomplishments during the 2024 session, and things he and the Senate want to work on again in the next session.
Photo by Jeremy Pittari | Magnolia Tribune

  • Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann touts agreements on a new education funding formula and on revisions to PERS funding, laments Medicaid expansion failure.

In a press conference held at the close of this year’s legislative session, Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann touted two achievements. Hosemann also addressed areas where the Legislature failed, but plans to revisit in 2025. 

The state’s public employee retirement system (PERS) drew much attention this year. The late passage of SB 3231 put a stop to the PERS Board’s plan for a 5 percent rate employer contribution increase, which included a 2 percent rate increase this summer. Under the bill, the rate will increase by 0.5 percent per year until 2028. Future increases to the contribution rate will now also be conducted with input from two third-party actuaries and any proposed increases will require Legislative approval. 

Hosemann said additional changes to the retirement plan will include the creation of a fifth tier for new employees of the state. The new tier will not affect current employees and retirees. 

A monumental education funding bill was also passed this session. Hosemann said the bill, if signed into law, will be a significant jump in funding for education. With Gov. Tate Reeves’ signature, HB 4130 will provide about $230 million more in education funding, bringing the total to about $2.9 billion. The deadline for him to take up that bill is May 8. 

HB 4130 includes the weighted system proposed in the House’s original education funding bill, dubbed the INSPIRE Act. The idea is that students in certain categories require more resources to education. Categories in the legislation that receive funding weights include low income students, English language learners, and special needs students, among others. But what sold the Senate on the final education funding bill was the inclusion of a solid base student cost, Hosemann said. 

If HB 4130 gets the Governor’s signature it will mean the end of the Mississippi Adequate Education Program funding formula, which has only been fully funded twice since its creation in 1997. When asked why the Legislature feels it can fully fund this formula when it previously failed to fund MAEP, Hosemann said he and the Senate are devoted to funding it.  

The legislation comes at a time when the state’s graduation rate is on the rise and the education system as a whole is climbing in national rankings. 

“I’m very pleased we’re up to 35th and climbing,” Hosemann said about the state’s national ranking in K-12 education. “With those positive results comes positive funding.”

There was a failure to come to an agreement on Medicaid this session. The Senate was insistent that any plan to expand Medicaid include a work requirement for able-bodied adults. In support of the work requirement, Senate leadership pointed to the fact that Mississippi already has a low workforce participation rate.

“Only 53 percent of our people are working,” Hosemann explained.

His expressed intent is to provide for those who are working but can’t afford insurance, especially those just starting out. 

“I think working people in Mississippi should have access to healthcare,” Hosemann said.

If the Senate’s original version of the legislation had become law, an estimated 74,000 able-bodied adults would have become eligible to participate in Medicaid, but during the back and forth between the two bodies, the effort to expand Medicaid “wilted away.” 

“That being said, it’s Spring. So we’re going to pour water on it and we’ll come back next year,” said Hosemann. 

One of the things Hosemann proposed to work on this session, but did not cross the finishing line on, was providing a free education for the state’s youth from Kindergarten all the way through community college. He said he intends to continue that work in 2025. 

This article first appeared on the Magnolia Tribune and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Read original article by clicking here.

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