This is one in a series of stories produced by students taking a state government reporting class at the University of Mississippi’s Meek School of Journalism and New Media. The class is led by Mississippi Today co-editor Fred Anklam Jr. and Meek school journalism professor LaReeca Rucker.
JACKSON — Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves is a man who the state of Mississippi supports, shown through his winning seven statewide elections.
When the Mississippi Press Corps sat down with him for an interview, he made clear why he was so popular with the voters. Reeves introduced the class to his office with a warm welcome and some general information about his experience as a politician.
“I was the guy dumb enough to think I could win a statewide election at 29, and I was the guy smart enough to actually pull it off,” he said of his initial run for office in 2003.
As lieutenant governor, one of his duties is to appoint Senate committee chairmen. He bragged of the diversity in his committee appointments, citing “they were diverse in their parties, by their race, and geographically,” as in regions of Mississippi.
When asked why he thought infrastructure in Mississippi was at a lower standard than other states, he was clear that he agreed that Mississippi needs to spend more money on infrastructure, however was unable to give a clear answer as to how that will be done.
Since becoming lieutenant governor, according to his numbers, Mississippi has spent approximately $7.4 billion on road and bridge maintenance.
Reeves added: “Public infrastructure is a core function of government.”
He stated that rural areas are specifically hit with a lack of infrastructure. While he seemed to be refreshingly realistic about the state of these hard hit areas — stating that the suggested $375 million to $4oo million for infrastructure is more than the Legislature will spend — he made a point to reiterate that he was optimistic about the future of Mississippi’s road conditions, and “is hopeful to find a way to spend more without raising taxes.”
His words were solidified in statements he made the following day as he spoke to business leaders gathered at the Capitol for the Mississippi Economic Council’s Capital Day.
“There is a difference in budget cuts and spending cuts,” Reeves said of Mississippi’s current financial state at the legislative meeting.
Sen. Terry Burton also shared his views and input on the infrastructure needs of the state. “I am a former mayor, and I am all about trying to do something about the infrastructure needs in this state. We have to do it right because we only have one more opportunity to bite this apple.”