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Reeves Suggests ‘Higher-Paying Jobs’ For People Who Want Health Care, Presley Pushes Medicaid Expansion

Tate Reeves speaks at a blue podium labeled Neshoba County Fair
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said residents need “better, more higher-paying jobs” that provide quality health insurance, not Medicaid expansion, during a speech at the Neshoba County Fair in Philadelphia, Miss., on Thursday, July 28, 2023. Photo by Heather Harrison

NESHOBA COUNTY, Miss.—Working Mississippians who want health care coverage need “better, more higher-paying jobs” that provide quality private insurance, not Medicaid expansion, Republican Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said at the Neshoba County Fair as he traded barbs with Democratic opponent Brandon Presley.

Presley zeroed in on hospitals that are closing and laying off workers across the state, saying he would “expand Medicaid to save hospitals” if elected. He said Reeves “doesn’t have the guts or the spine to fix our hospital problems.”

“He’s fiddling while our hospitals are burning to the ground, and he doesn’t care,” Presley added.

When asked for his thoughts on the hospital closures, Reeves deflected and said Presley “can’t talk about” his Democratic views or the governor’s “fantastic record.”

“So he’s making up all these things that don’t make sense,” the Republican governor said to reporters.

Reeves said he wants to make health care more affordable and more accessible but did not offer a concrete plan to make that happen. Medicaid expansion would cover working Mississippians whose income is too high for traditional Medicaid but not high enough to afford private coverage or to qualify for help with federal subsidies.

“We need to open up our health care system to more competition,” he said.

Reeves sought to tie Presley to out-of-state Democrats while Presley blamed the incumbent for Mississippi’s failing hospitals.

“The national liberals have made Mississippi a target,” Reeves said in his speech. The governor claimed states like California are influencing the Mississippi Democratic Party.

“(Presley’s) a liberal Democrat in Mississippi, so he can’t talk about what he believes. So, of course, he going to make up things and make up these pseudo campaigns and events that are occurring that he has no control over and I can do nothing about,” Reeves told reporters.

But Presley said Reeves and California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom have many similarities in lifestyle and politics, such as removing ‘In God We Trust’ from car tags and associating with upper-class people.

“Well, the governor hasn’t gotten anything else to run on besides calling someone a radical liberal,” he told members of the press, noting that Reeves had not agreed to debate him even after challenging the California governor to a debate on Twitter.

Democratic candidate for governor Brandon Presley, pictured, accused Gov. Tate Reeves of “fiddling while our hospitals are burning to the ground” as he reiterated his support for expanding Medicaid at the Neshoba County Fair in Philadelphia, Miss., on Thursday, July 28, 2023. Photo by Heather Harrison

Presley spoke before Reeves at the fair and mentioned the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families scandal that happened while Reeves was lieutenant governor.

“He will not open his mouth one time to propose ethics reform in Mississippi to stop the welfare scandal from ever happening again but also to clean up state government,” Presley said.

Reeves has not been accused of any crimes related to the misuse of TANF funds.

In his 21st speech at the fair, Reeves said he’d give “the facts, the math and the whole truth.” He mentioned the 3.1% unemployment rate, $6 billion in “new capital investment” that was “attracted to the state,” and the improving school system as some of his accomplishments as governor.

He added that he had promoted conservative values in Mississippi, like banning gender-affirming care for transgender minors and implementing the State’s near-total abortion ban. When asked about his position on banning care, including puberty blockers, for transgender minors, Presley said in June that he trusted “mamas and daddies to deal with the health care of their children.” But when asked this month if he would repeal the State’s ban on transgender children playing sports or receiving gender-affirming care, the candidate told Mississippi Today he “won’t work to overturn these laws.”

If elected, Presley said a policy he does want to work to pass into law is an elimination of the grocery sales tax; he also wants to reduce car tag costs.

“Tate Reeves has had 12 years to eliminate sales tax on groceries. For y’all that don’t know, it’s the highest tax on food in the state of America,” he told reporters, adding that he wants to cut car tag fees.

Reeves said he wants to eliminate the state income tax but skirted a question from reporters about cutting grocery sales tax. Eliminating grocery taxes would affect low-income residents the most, who spend a significant portion of their income on groceries.

“I’ve never seen a tax cut I didn’t like. In fact, I think it’s probably a better move to eliminate the income tax to zero,” the governor said.

Reeves will face challenges in the Aug. 8 GOP primaries from John Witcher and David Hardigree. Presley is running for the Democratic nomination unopposed.

Voters who were registered to vote by July 10 can choose to vote in either the Republican or Democratic primaries, where they will select nominees for all statewide and legislative offices on Aug. 8. The general election will follow on Nov. 7.

Voters should bring an accepted form of voter ID to the polls or may have to cast an affidavit ballot; those without an accepted form of ID can obtain a free voter ID from their county circuit clerk’s office.

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