HATTIESBURG, MISS. – Monday morning, six elected state officials gathered together at the USM Trent Lott Center to hear the concern of Pine Belt residents.
State senators and representatives addressed questions from residents and also provided insight about what residents can expect in the upcoming 2019 Mississippi legislative session.
“What I’m hoping for this time is we do have some money, and we won’t have to go up there and start making cuts.” State Senator for District 45, Bill Hudson said.
In the 2018 special session, lawmakers approved three new resources for state income. Mississippi would begin to collect online sales tax revenue, generate money from sports betting, and implement a state lottery.
Now, it’s up to lawmakers to decide what they will fund with the extra money.
“We got to find out what the projected revenue is,” Hudson said. “Then try to meet all the needs that we can to help the people that need it the most in Mississippi.”
State Senator (District 34) Juan Barnett and Representative (District 104) Larry Byrd mention their support for teacher pay raises.
“If we expect our students to get the best, I think we need to give the best to those who we are expecting this from,” Barnett said.
However, Representative (District 102) Missy McGee says the first order of business for the state needs to focus on Mississippi’s Public Employees’ Retirement System (PERS).
“The first thing I think we have to do is sure-up PERS,” McGee said. “Because without that it really doesn’t do the job we want it to do… to get that money to teachers, to get the money to state employees.”
Other topics discussed focused on increasing the expansion of internet in rural communities and providing extra funding to mental health.
The Mississippi 2019 legislative session begins Jan. 8 at noon.