House Speaker Phil Gunn speaks at the Neshoba County Fair on Thursday.

PHILADELPHIA — House Speaker Philip Gunn pledged Thursday that Republican government leaders in Jackson will show continued commitment to conservative values.

“We will not back down,” from a commitment to smaller government, the Clinton Republican told fair-goers here. “Just because a problem exists doesn’t mean that government should fix it.”

Gunn listed a variety of ways in which the GOP state leadership has worked to reduce the size of government and provide more freedom for state residents.

Gunn’s speech followed a series of state and local officials who cited strides they see in maintaining conservative ideals. Several officials delved into more specific aspects of their positions.

Agriculture and Commerce Commissioner Cindy Hyde-Smith said that for the first time in 14 years, China has lifted a ban against buying U.S. beef.

The ban was put in place when incidents of Mad Cow disease first occurred in the U.S., but the stoppage was more of a negotiating tool and had less to do with health or safety concerns, Hyde-Smith said.  

“When China stopped buying U.S. beef it really took a hit on us,” she said “We are beef producers. That’s what we do full time for a living in Brookhaven, Mississippi.”

Hyde-Smith said the lift came one week after she visited China and spoke to agricultural officials about the quality of U.S.beef.

Billy Stewart, President of East Central Community College, spoke about how a $1 million cut in state appropriations have affected the school.

“We responded to that cut with a hiring freeze a salary freeze, cuts in many line items like supplies or contractual services. We had to increase tuition. By the way, we increased tuition by the most of any college or university in the state,” Stewart said.

Tuition increased from $1,040 per semester to $1,290 per semester. Stuart said despite tuition increases, East Central Community College is still the least expensive community college to attend in Mississippi.

Representative C. Scott Bounds, R-Philadelphia bucked a recent decision made by the Public Service Commission regarding the Kemper County energy facility.

Rep. Scott Bounds, R-Philadelphia, speaks at the at the Neshoba County Fair on Thursday.

In early July the Public Service Commission adopted an order encouraging Mississippi Power Co., which owns Kemper Power Plant to solely use natural gas

“The rest of the plant, the most expensive part, the part that is supposed to turn lignite coal into gas to run the plant has been under construction since 2010 and is still not finished,” said Public Service Commissioner Cecil Brown early Thursday morning.

Bounds said this suggestion has cost more than 200 people their jobs.

“People here that had good jobs, $18 to $25 an hour jobs that people were working. Young families. And all of a sudden they’re out of work. And I’ve got to sit back and I’ve got to say, ‘Why has this come about?’” Bounds said after Brown spoke.

Critics have opposed the Kemper plant as government waste, a project that would cost at minimum $7.5 billion.

Bounds asked the Public Service Commission to re-evaluate its decision several times during his 10 minute speech.

“Let’s put these people back to work, let’s mine the coal that’s one of our most abundant resources and let’s put people back to work,” Bounds said.

Gov. Bryant touts accomplishments in Neshoba speech

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Kelsey Davis Betz is from Mobile, Ala., and currently lives in Cleveland, where she worked as a Mississippi Delta-based reporter covering education and intersecting issues. Kelsey has a dual degree in journalism and Spanish from Auburn University and worked as an editorial intern at Texas Monthly and a courts reporter at the Montgomery Advertiser. She is a 2018 Educating Children in Mississippi Fellow at the Hechinger Report and is a co-founder of the Mississippi Delta Public Newsroom.

One reply on “Speakers talk specifics at Neshoba County Fair”

  1. Right on, Mr. Speaker, “a commitment to smaller government” calls for replacing the Beechcraft King Air 350 with an used Piper Cub.

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