Brandon Presley, a Democratic public service commissioner, gave the official Democratic Party response to Gov. Tate Reeves’ Jan. 30 State of the State address.
Below is the transcript of Presley’s response, which aired on Mississippi Public Broadcasting immediately following Reeves’ address.
Editor’s note: This transcript was submitted by Presley’s campaign and has not been formatted to match Mississippi Today’s style.
VIDEO: Watch Brandon Presley’s State of the State response here.
Good evening, I’m Brandon Presley. And as you might be able to tell, I am speaking to you this evening from inside a closed-down emergency room in a shutdown hospital. But before I tell you why I’m standing here tonight, I want to tell you a little bit about where I’m from and who I am.
I grew up in North Mississippi, in a small town called Nettleton. It’s not a one-stoplight town, it’s a no-stoplight town. It’s a little dot on the map and like many towns in Mississippi, it’s the kind of place that Tate Reeves probably doesn’t know exists and doesn’t care about.
When I was growing up in Nettleton, my momma worked at the local garment factory before it shut down, then she became a preschool teacher at the local church up the street. She raised me, my brother, and sister in the house that I still live in. Back then, you could see straight through the floor to the dirt, but with my mama’s trust in God, we never felt as poor as we really were.
My daddy was an alcoholic who never made it to recovery. On my first day of 3rd grade, he was murdered in cold blood. My life, like many of yours, has had its share of tragedies, but with that faith in God that my mama taught me, I have been able to push through bad times, just like so many of you watching tonight. I’ve been there and so I know how you feel as you struggle to pay the bills, get the groceries and just hope that maybe you can make it to the next paycheck.
But thanks to the values I learned in that old house, I did push through. I went to college. I became mayor of Nettleton to fight for my neighbors and the folks who helped me become who I am today. We got Nettleton moving again. We cut taxes twice and balanced the budget. Since then, I’ve served on the public service commission to fight for families and against special interests who, too often, rule the roost in state government. We opened up closed-door meetings where the public was shut out and brought transparency to our state agency. I voted against boondoggles like the Kemper power plant and saved taxpayers over six billion dollars. Many times when I had to stand alone.
It takes guts and backbone to stand by yourself when the lobbyists and folks with big campaign checks oppose you. That’s called leadership. We don’t have it with Tate Reeves and that’s exactly why I’m running for Governor.
But, tonight isn’t about me and my story – it’s about you and your story, your family’s story, and your community’s story. It’s about the Mississippi that we want to build together. So, I ask you, do we want to keep goin’ down the same path that got us here, or do we want to start winning again?
Because tonight, I listened to Governor Reeves’ State of the State address. I’ve watched his “leadership” over the years, and I know and see what you know and see. Mississippi is full of good people, but we are led by horrible politicians and it’s time for that to change.
The reality is, under Tate Reeves’ leadership, we are moving in the wrong direction. Nothing makes that clearer than where I am tonight. I’m at what once was Pioneer Community Hospital in Newton, which employed over 200 people. Now, it’s shut down for good. No doctors roaming the halls, no nurses tending to patients, no ambulances outside, no cars in the parking lot. Right now, there are thirty-eight more rural hospitals just like the one I’m standing in, and they are on the brink of shutting their doors. If hospitals continue to close, the impact will be catastrophic. Jobs lost and healthcare for thousands gutted.
Every time we close a rural hospital, folks have to drive farther and farther to see a doctor and the true, sad fact is that some will die. This is the reality that Tate Reeves has chosen to put us in. Make no mistake, he made this choice. We have a solution. By extending Medicaid to the working people of our state, we can keep hospitals across Mississippi from experiencing the same fate as this one. All Tate Reeves has to do is lift his hand, take an ink pen, and sign on a line. Instead, he lacks the backbone and he will sit on his hands while people lose their jobs, some lose their lives and our hospitals suffer. When Tate Reeves finally wakes up and asks why hospitals are closing, he should look in the mirror. And this hospital is just one example of how Tate Reeves and his policies are hurting our families.
Mississippi is at the bottom of the nation for economic growth. We’re one of only three states that lost population, and the numbers recently released by the bureau of labor statistics show ZERO job growth in Mississippi. We are one of only seven states that taxes groceries. In the Delta, there is one pediatrician for every 4,000 kids. It’s no surprise we lead the nation in deaths for children under the age of one, how is that pro-life? What does all that tell you? That Tate Reeves is only pro-life until you’re born and then he’s done caring about you.
While he brags about a budget surplus, family budgets are running out. And while you’re careful with your money, he’s throwing your tax dollars away. He’s been caught in the middle of the largest public corruption scandal in our state’s history. $77 million dollars of taxpayer money that should have gone to working families that are struggling instead went to help build a volleyball court… a volleyball court! And paid for speeches by famous people that were never given. Some was even given to Tate Reeves’ own personal trainer. And you should tune in because we are only just now learning how bad and possibly illegal all of this activity was.
But, I’m done talking about Tate Reeves. I want to listen to you. I want to fight for you. Together, we can build a Mississippi that focuses on the future, not the past. We can build an economy that works for everybody.
It starts in Jackson next year, with a strong ethics package to root out corruption and ensure our politicians are serving you rather than being sold off to the highest bidder. It is time to send a signal to the special interest that the party Is over and their day of complete control of our state has come to an end. It continues by funding rural hospitals and police officers, not stealing from them. Yes, we should fund the police, increase healthcare, and invest in education. Together, we are going to end the insane grocery tax. We’re going to make sure folks from Walnut on the Tennessee line to Waveland on the gulf coast can walk with pride because they have a job and hope for their children’s future.
Mississippi, I love you. If you need me, you know where to find me – I won’t be in under the chandeliers tinkling glasses with the powerful, I’ll be with you. I’ll be on your side.
…The holes in the floor have been fixed in that old house I grew up in, but the values my momma taught me and the love that made it a home are still here. I don’t care who you’ve voted for, or what party you’re in. I know that we’re neighbors and we look out for each other.
May God bless you, and may God bless the great state of Mississippi.