GOVERNOR HALEY REEVES BARBOUR
In his eighth year as Governor, Haley Barbour has maintained his focus on making Mississippi a better place to live, work and play through strong support of job creation, schools, health care, energy, safer communities and stronger families.
And his approach is producing results: a 27 percent increase in per capita personal income from 2003 to 2009; significant civil justice reform and prudent management of the state health care program. Gov. Barbour remains committed to long-term economic success for Mississippi by supporting innovative manufacturing techniques and welcoming a variety of energy projects to ensure the state stands ready to meet America’s energy needs.
Gov. Barbour’s first election in 2003 marked the largest voter turnout in Mississippi gubernatorial history, and he was reelected in 2007 with 58.2 percent of the vote. The Yazoo City, Miss., native is only the second governor since Reconstruction to be elected to a second consecutive term as Mississippi’s chief executive.
In the four years before Haley Barbour became Governor, Mississippi lost a higher percentage of manufacturing jobs than any other state in the nation. Mississippi suffered a net loss of 49,700 of our highest-paying jobs – a 22-percent decline in manufacturing employment.
Gov. Barbour made attracting high-skilled, high-paying jobs utilizing advanced materials a priority of his administration. World-class corporations have located facilities in the state providing top-notch jobs requiring advanced skills. PACCAR, Severstal, GE Aviation, Northrop Grumman and Nissan have major production facilities in Mississippi. Even clean-energy companies are calling Mississippi home, including solar panel manufacturer Twin Creeks Technologies and biofuel maker KiOR Inc. Toyota Motor Co. is scheduled open their latest North American plant near Tupelo in 2011.
Public schools, community colleges and universities have seen record funding under Gov. Barbour. His education plan, UpGrade, adjusted how Mississippi utilized resources by making the education budget process more uniform and transparent so taxpayers can see how our education dollars are spent and by authorizing the privatization of certain school budget functions. UpGrade also gave financial incentives to teachers who were willing to mentor middle school teachers, which would lead to improved learning and behavior by students in school. UpGrade also gave more flexibility to school districts by granting home rule. Gov. Barbour also focused on Mississippi’s unacceptably high dropout rate by creating an Associate State Superintendent level position for dropout prevention.
Gov. Barbour believes access to abundant energy supplies is critical to Mississippi’s ability to compete in the global marketplace. All forms of energy – coal, natural gas, oil, nuclear and renewables – play a crucial role in attracting industry to our state and bringing high-paying jobs to our citizens. He created the Mississippi Energy Policy Institute to develop policies that promote the development of affordable energy supplies for businesses and families. Mississippi is making strides in developing energy solutions through clean coal, solar energy components manufacturing, tertiary oil recovery, and natural gas projects.
Under his leadership, Mississippi is emerging as a leader in utilizing the state’s abundant resources and developing alternative, affordable, and sustainable sources of energy. To date, approximately $17.3 billion in projects have been announced, completed or are underway, involving solar power, biofuels, liquefied natural gas, clean coal and coal-to-liquid, and nuclear power. In total, the state is actively pursuing and negotiating additional energy-related projects valued at more than $16.4 billion.
Health and Human Services
Gov. Barbour has promoted a healthier Mississippi by supporting “Let’s Go Walking Mississippi” along with First Lady Marsha Barbour. The program is discussed in schools across the state to teach children the importance of regular exercise and healthy meals.
Gov. Barbour also has protected the solvency of the state’s Medicaid program by controlling costs. Under his leadership, Medicaid changed its prescription drug program to better utilize generic drugs instead of more expensive brand name drugs. He also promoted annual physicals for Medicaid beneficiaries to detect health problems early by checking them for diabetes and high blood pressure and making sure they’re taking the right medications. These visits also allow protection against Medicaid fraud by verifying that those participating in the program truly need assistance.
Inheriting a budget more than $720 million in the red when he took office, Gov. Barbour led by restraining spending, controlling debt and getting the state’s fiscal house in order. His policies not only filled the budget hole but also resulted in increasing Mississippi’s “Rainy Day Fund.”
Gov. Barbour streamlined state programs and enacted a real, comprehensive tort reform package that drew national attention. To strengthen economic development efforts, he formed Momentum Mississippi, a group of business, education, and government leaders from every area of the state dedicated to planning for long-term economic development. The expert organization’s first recommendation to realign economic development incentives to match the growth sectors of the economy and provide incentives for higher-paying jobs swiftly passed legislative approval.
He and the Legislature enacted what the Wall Street Journal called the most comprehensive tort reform legislation in the country. After tort reform, more than 50 new insurance programs entered our state, making the marketplace more competitive. Liability rates went down, automobile insurance rates went down, homeowner’s and other property insurance rates went down Tort reform created jobs by reducing unnecessary costs for small businesses.
Leadership through crisis
During his tenure, Gov. Barbour has led Mississippi through several crises both natural and manmade. By clearly communicating with federal, state and local officials, he has carefully placed Mississippi on a path to recovery and rebuild in the face of massive destruction.
The worst natural disaster in American history, Hurricane Katrina, struck Mississippi on August 29, 2005, and Gov. Barbour quickly took action to get Mississippians back on their feet. He and First Lady Marsha Barbour, his wife of 40 years, worked tirelessly and innovatively with local, state and national leadership to tap into many resources of assistance for victims of Hurricane Katrina.
Gov. Barbour has managed $5.4 billion efficiently and effectively to reconstruct public housing, strengthen neighborhoods, aid Gulf Coast business community and rebuild the Port of Gulfport – critical piece of the state’s economy. For his leadership after Katrina, Gov. Barbour was awarded the Thomas Jefferson Freedom Award, which is presented to a nationally recognized leader by the bipartisan American Legislative Exchange Council.
In Spring 2010, Mississippi again was hit with two disasters that threatened communities and the state’s economy. In April, a string of tornadoes ripped through central and north Mississippi damaging houses and businesses. Knowing local governments could not meet every need in the wake of these terrible storms, Gov. Barbour established and promoted the Mississippi Disaster Recovery Fund to collect donations from corporations and individuals and help distribute funds for specific rebuilding needs.
Within weeks, the Gulf Coast faced another catastrophe with the Deepwater Horizon offshore oil well accident that pumped crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico. While Mississippi beaches escaped the inundation of oil experienced by neighboring states – only small patches of tar balls and limited areas of sheen washed ashore and were quickly removed – the state’s fisheries and tourism-related businesses were hit hard by the intense publicity of the overall oil spill. Gov. Barbour organized a committee of economic experts and state and local officials to assess the damage from the oil spill. He also is working with the federal claims process to ensure Mississippians are receiving the payments they deserve from BP.
Gov. Barbour was named Governor of the Year for 2006 by Washington, D.C.-based Governing magazine; awarded the Gulf Guardian Award by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for his work to rebuild and protect sensitive Coast ecosystems; and received the 2008 Adam Smith Medal from BIPAC for his pursuit of the principles of free enterprise. In June 2009, Gov. Barbour assumed the role of chairman of the Republican Governors Association.