Ad Spot

Barbour: Developing better
solutions for state's problems

By By Georgia E. Frye / staff writer
Oct. 12, 2003
Haley Barbour, the Republican gubernatorial candidate, sat down with The Meridian Star's editorial board to talk about what he believes are the major issues facing Mississippi and how he proposes to solve Mississippi's problems.
The Meridian Star: How could your connections in Washington help you achieve some of the things you want to achieve for Mississippi?
Haley Barbour: It is important for us to have a governor that understands how Washington works and how to work Washington.
The federal government provides more than 37 percent of Mississippi's state budget. More than $4 billion is transferred from the federal treasury to the state treasury every year.
To have a governor that can help enhance that money by getting more money or by getting more flexibility in spending the money so we can spend it on Mississippi's priorities instead of spending it on Washington's priorities is tremendously valuable to Mississippi.
And it's not just the $4 billion. Take Naval Air Station Meridian, for example.
It is essential to the economy of this area to have a governor that not only has experience and a proven record of success in dealing with the federal government, but also has long-standing close relationships with the president, the vice president, both of our senators, the speaker of the House and the majority leader of the Senate.
I want to take my skills, experience and relationships and put them to work to help turn Mississippi around.
We have never had a governor who could bring that to the governor's office. We have never had a governor who has a personal relationship with the president of the United States. I won't apologize for my success. I know that Mississippi will benefit from having a governor that will do more for us in terms of federal and state relations.
The Star: Both sets of campaign ads mislead the public. One of your ads says that college tuition has gone up under Musgrove, but he ultimately has no control over that. How are your ads different from what you say Musgrove is doing?
Barbour: The reason college tuition is an issue is because the governor during the campaign said that he wouldn't raise college tuition and that Mississippi would be one of the only states that wouldn't have an increase in college tuition this year.
We had a 30 percent increase in college tuition in the last three years and the college board announced last year they would raise college tuition again, but they wouldn't raise it this year no matter what. He came out claiming to be responsible for the fact that there wasn't going to be an increase in college tuition this year.
The second reason it's relevant is that tuition has gone up because state support for our community colleges and our universities has been cut.
The governor takes credit for a record education budget this year and he claims that is a reason why people should vote for him, because 62 percent of state spending is going to education.
It is important for people to understand that in a record education budget, our community colleges are getting 16 percent less than they got when Kirk Fordice was governor, that is a $32 million cut compared to four years ago. Universities have taken a $71 million cut compared to four years ago.
So if he is going to go out and say a reason to vote for him is this record education budget, the public has a right to know what has happened in community colleges and universities. He can't have it both ways.
It's like his television spot where he said he created 56,000 jobs and then it came out that the number of people employed in Mississippi has actually gone down 37,000 since he became governor. But he said he didn't count the lost jobs. The people who lost those jobs count, and lost jobs is one of the major issues of this campaign.
The Star: If elected, do you support the Legislature funding education first before any other agency?
Barbour: Education is the No. 1 priority of state government and I support funding the education appropriations first. I don't support funding them in January. Teachers' contracts are typically renewed in April. There is a good practical reason that education funding should be decided before the end of March because they have teacher contracts coming up.
I would favor funding it in March as the first appropriation because we will know more about the budget and more about our situation in March.
The Star: How do you asses the Mississippi Adequate Education Program and its impact so far?
Barbour: No Child Left Behind is conceptually a good thing for the country. There are some peculiar problems with No Child Left Behind that make it misleading.
A better indicator of students' performance is standardized test scores, but Mississippi needs to make sure it sets its standards high. Education begins with prekindergarten and Mississippi does not have the money for a prekindergarten program. We have a hard time paying for what we have.
I think we need to work on expanding the Head Start program, which is paid for by federal funds.
I propose that we allow private child care centers to become certified to prepare children better for education. The Mississippi Education Extension service is a plan that would teach parents how to better prepare their children for education and how to get more involved in their children's education.