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July 28, 2005


"It’s great to be back at the Neshoba County Fair. Before I talk about anything else, I want to recognize Marsha, my bride of nearly 34 years. Having her as my partner in this journey helped elect me Governor and makes me a better Governor… and a better man.


It’s an honor to speak at the Fair every year. But Marsha always asks me how I’m going to stay within my ten-minute allotment. She knows I tend to talk a little long. I told her not to worry. If I run long, I’ll just call a special session for more time… it works for the Legislature.


I enjoyed the stroll down memory lane with our former governors this morning. I appreciate their dedicated public service over the last thirty-three years.


Mississippi native Fred Smith of FedEx cites the old adage, “The main thing is to keep the main thing, the main thing.” I laid out a specific agenda when I ran for Governor; told you what I’d do if you elected me. To me, the main thing is to do what I promised you I’d do. So let me give you a little report.


From day one, the most urgent priority of my Administration has been job creation. Last year, we had the highest number of net new jobs created since 1999 and the largest increase in personal income since 1998. After four years of losing jobs, there has been a steady increase in the number of Mississippians working since I became Governor.


We still have further to go. Mississippi family income is still too low; but I’m proud we have laid the groundwork, so we are catching the rising tide of a growing national economy. The policies of the past are behind us…it’s a new day in Mississippi.


Working with the Legislature to end lawsuit abuse, we passed the most comprehensive tort reform law in the nation. Since then, homeowner’s insurance rates are down, automobile insurance rates are down, property insurance rates are down, and more than 50 new insurance programs have entered our state. That means more competition, more affordable insurance, and more jobs.


Since tort reform, the main liability insurer of our doctors has started writing new policies and didn’t raise rates for the first time in years; and Blue Cross Blue Shield cut its health insurance rates. Tort reform is helping ease a health care crisis in our state. It’s a new day in Mississippi.


Working with the Legislature to create better, higher paying jobs, we passed the biggest overhaul of our state workforce development and job training programs ever. We’ve cut payroll taxes on our state’s employers by 25%, while doubling state support to community colleges for job training. The result: In its first year the number of clients the reorganized department placed in jobs, increased by 35% over the previous year. It’s a new day in Mississippi.


To me keeping your word is important. I’m reminded of a story about when Conrad Hilton was on the Ed Sullivan TV show. Conrad Hilton, the hotel mogul, a business icon of his day much like Bill Gates today. Ed Sullivan, so the story goes, asked him “Mr. Hilton, if you could tell the American people one thing; what would it be?” The father of the Hilton hotel chain didn’t even pause. He said “Put the shower curtain inside the tub.”


Conrad Hilton knew what was important to him. What’s important to me is keeping faith with the people, by doing as Governor what I said I’d do when I was a candidate. To make it a new day in Mississippi.


Last month, thanks to business, education, community and political leaders from every part of our state, we passed Momentum Mississippi to help Mississippians compete in the global economy and enjoy the higher paying jobs of the 21st Century.


We’ve gotten serious about economic development.


Walking around the Fairgrounds, I passed the livestock exhibit over by the racetrack. I noticed how relaxed all the cattle seemed to be. Then it dawned on me. Even they had heard about the beef plant boondoggle. Under my Administration, we perform thorough due diligence on every economic development proposal. We won’t let anybody put pork or politics ahead of progress. It’s a new day in Mississippi.


Working with the Legislature, we have almost dug out of the $700 million budget hole left by the previous Administration, and we’ve done it without raising anybody’s taxes. State revenue grew last year by nearly $300 million, up nearly 8%, without raising anybody’s taxes. How? Because we have more taxpayers and more taxable income. That’s the way to fund our priorities; not by raising taxes.


We saved money by reforming unsustainable programs: since requiring those on the Medicaid rolls to establish that they are a truly eligible, we have seen the number of people on Medicaid go down by 33,000 this year. You see, I think it is wrong for a family to work hard at two or three jobs to raise their kids and pay for their healthcare; and then have to turn around and pay extra taxes so others who are able to work and take care of themselves instead chose not to but get free healthcare at taxpayers expense.


We set priorities in our budget. That’s why in this new budget year, the state will actually spend less money than last year. When it comes to our state budget, it’s not business as usual anymore.


Working with the Legislature, we streamlined state law enforcement operations to focus on working better and smarter, strengthening cooperation with local law enforcement. And drug arrests are up 73% over last year. It’s a new day for law enforcement in Mississippi.


Working with the Legislature, we have passed six new laws to protect the rights of the unborn. In September Marsha and I will go to Chicago to accept an award from a national right to life organization, naming Mississippi “The safest place in America for an unborn child.”


Public education is the number one economic development issue in Mississippi and the number one quality of life issue. That is why it’s the top priority of state government and the top priority in our state budget.


Sixty-three percent of the state’s $4.6B budget goes to education. While almost every other area of government was cut, our new budget increases K-12 spending by 7.2% and fully funds the promised 8% pay raise for our teachers. Since I’ve been Governor, the average salary of our public school teachers has gone up from $36,628 to $42,723, the largest two year increase in our state’s history.


We will continue to increase spending for all areas of education, including our universities and community colleges, whose budgets suffered so much in the previous four years.


But unlike some politicians, I know a quality education is about more than money. To go with funding increases, which I will continue to support, we have to UpGrade our education system with some common sense reforms that focus on the classroom and put teaching first:


Pay our best teachers more, so we can reward those teachers and encourage others to do even better.


Reward high-performing schools by liberating them from the bureaucracy of state mandates and regulations.


Put mentors in our middle schools so we can help our newest teachers instill discipline in every classroom.


It is a new day in Mississippi, but we can do better.

We’ll do better for our universities and community colleges and for early childhood education. We’ll do better to achieve a Healthy Mississippi. We’ll make state government work better, so all Mississippians will enjoy more prosperity, more progress, more freedom. And we’ll remember our enormous debt to those who protect our freedom… our way of life.


While we are here enjoying our friends and the Fair, more than 4000 members of the Mississippi National Guard are serving our country in Iraq and Afghanistan in the war on terror. I want you to remember the sacrifices of these men and women and of all who are serving our country… and of their families.


The people of Neshoba County know this sacrifice. Just a few hundred yards from the front gates of these Fairgrounds is a little church in the community of Coldwater. Two young men from that church, Joshua Ladd and Matt Stovall, have made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. Their families must always have our thanks, our thoughts, and our prayers.


The fierce patriotism of our people is a part of Mississippi, and it is a part that should not and will not ever change.


May God continue to bless Mississippi and may God bless the United States of America."