JACKSON, Miss. — The two main candidates for Mississippi governor held dueling news conferences Wednesday to accuse each other of wanting state government to dig deeper into people’s wallets.
Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood and Republican Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves are competing in the Nov. 5 election, along with two candidates running low-budget campaigns.
Appearing at a concrete business in Canton, Reeves said he stands by his own record of pushing lawmakers to phase out the franchise tax.
Hood spoke at his own campaign office in Jackson and said the franchise tax cut helps out-of-state corporations but not working people.
Reeves said Hood couches criticism of the franchise tax cut “in terms of ‘these big bad out of state corporations,’” while ignoring locally owned businesses.
“Well, the reality is that ‘these big, bad out-of-state corporations’ … they employ literally tens of thousands and really hundreds of thousands of Mississippians,” Reeves said. “And so when he’s talking about raising axes, he’s probably talking about raising taxes on your employer.”
Hood said he does not know if the Republican-led Legislature would be willing to repeal the franchise tax cut but he pointed out that some Republican lawmakers had already proposed slowing down the reduction to see how state tax collections are affected.
“Tate’s tax giveaways have broken our economy,” Hood said.
Reeves said Hood is proposing programs that would cost hundreds of millions of dollars and require tax increases. Hood responded that Reeves is a “desperate politician” who is making things up.
“I’m the only one in this race who hasn’t ever raised taxes,” Hood said.
Hood said rural hospitals are struggling because Reeves and other Republicans have rejected $1 billion a year Mississippi could receive if it expanded Medicaid to the working poor. Expansion is an option under the federal health overhaul that then-President Barack Obama signed into law in 2010. The federal government would pay 90% of the expansion cost, which is higher than the rate of about 75% it already pays for the existing Medicaid program in Mississippi, one of the poorest states in the nation.
Mississippi is among the 14 states that have not expanded Medicaid.
Hood said he supports a plan proposed by the Mississippi Hospital Association, to have hospitals pay for the state costs of Medicaid expansion. Hood said that would help keep rural hospitals alive.
“He made some claims about expansion of health care,” Hood said of Reeves. “That won’t cost us anything. The hospitals will pay the match of what it costs the state, and he continues to ignore that, and that’s what’s been successful in other states.”
Reeves repeated his own opposition to Medicaid expansion and said hospitals would pass along their costs.
“The patients are going to pay for it because the hospitals, as you know, don’t have this $220 million in extra money lying around,” Reeves said.