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Presley Vows Minimum Wage Raise, Reeves Says Workers Need ‘Marketable’ Skills For Higher Pay

Tate Reeves and Brandon Presley
When asked about raising the minimum wage, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves, left, told reporters in Jackson on Oct. 26, 2023, that Mississippians can get better pay by developing “a skill that is marketable in the workplace.” His Democratic opponent in the governor’s race, Brandon Presley, right, said at a Tougaloo College forum on Oct. 24, 2023, that if elected, he would work with the Legislature’s Republican majorities to raise the minimum wage. Photo by Heather Harrison / AP Photo by Rogelio V. Solis 

Even as Democratic candidate for Mississippi governor Brandon Presley pledged to raise the minimum wage if elected, incumbent Republican Gov. Tate Reeves suggested over the weekend that low-wage workers should focus on learning skills that will appeal to employers.

“There aren’t a lot of people in Mississippi that are working for minimum wage now,” he told reporters when asked about his views on the minimum wage at the Mississippi Economic Council’s Hobnob Mississippi 2023 event in Jackson on Oct. 26.

Reeves said Presley’s promise to increase the minimum wage is something “every Democrat for the last hundred years” has used as a policy. “Mississippians can get better pay by developing “a skill that is marketable in the workplace,” he continued, echoing similar remarks he made in July when he suggested people who cannot afford health care need “better, higher-paying jobs”—not Medicaid expansion.

Mississippi and four other states—Alabama, Louisiana, South Carolina and Tennessee—are the only five that do not have their own minimum-wage laws, meaning the federal minimum of $7.25 an hour applies. Currently, 30 states and the District of Columbia have minimum-wage laws above the federal level.

Presley has said if elected, he would work with the Legislature’s Republican majorities to raise wages but did not point to a specific number.

“Definitely, $7.25 is not the figure,” the Democrat said at a Tougaloo College forum on Oct. 24.

The last time Mississippi’s lowest-paid workers enjoyed a minimum wage increase was in 2009 after Congress raised the federal minimum by 70 cents from $6.55 an hour to $7.25 an hour.

When the Associated Press’ Emily Wagster Pettus asked Reeves if he wanted to keep the status quo at the Hobnob event, the governor did not clarify his position.

“If the Legislature was to try to enact a (minimum wage) law, we would work on it as it occurred,” he said.

New New Democratic party chair Cheikh Taylor speaking in a crowd
Mississippi Democratic Party Chairman Cheikh Taylor, who is also a state representative, said some lawmakers have discussed raising the minimum wage to $10 or $15 an hour. Photo by Nick Judin

In the 2023 legislative session, Mississippi House Rep. Carl Mickens, D-Brooksville, introduced House Bill 96, which proposed a $10-an-hour state minimum wage, raising tipped workers’ hourly wages to $3.62, up from the current federal minimum of $2.13 an hour. The bill died in committee without a vote.

Mississippi Sen. Robert Jackson, D-Marks, also proposed Senate Bill 2288 in the 2023 legislative session to increase the state’s minimum wage to $10.50 an hour over three years but it also died in committee.

In an interview with Zerlina Maxwell on the Mornings with Zerlina radio show, Mississippi Democratic Party Chair Cheikh Taylor said Democratic lawmakers have been looking at raising the minimum wage to $10 or $15 an hour to “lift people out of poverty.”

“Not only are people overworked and underpaid, but at $7.25, you are denied basic services,” Taylor told Maxwell on Oct. 25. “You can’t go home and take care of your children. You’re probably working two jobs to do this and you wonder why our communities are actually imploding every day.”

Mississippi is the poorest state in the nation, with the lowest median household income of all states at $49,111 and a poverty rate of 19.1%, 2021 U.S. Census data shows.

The Legislature passed and Reeves signed House Bill 1426 into law in 2022, raising the Mississippi governor’s salary from $122,160 to $160,000; the pay raise will go into effect on July 1, 2024. Mississippi’s attorney general, secretary of state, insurance commissioner, state auditor, treasurer, agriculture commissioner, transportation commissioners and public-service commissioners will also enjoy salary increases.

Mississippians will vote for governor and other statewide, legislative and regional offices on Nov. 7, 2023. Any eligible registered voter who registered in person by Oct. 9 or had their voter registration application postmarked by Oct. 10 can cast a ballot in the general election.

Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Contact your local circuit clerk or election commissioners for polling place information. Voters must bring an accepted form of voter ID to the polls. For more information, visit

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