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Musgrove: Leadership more
important than connections

By By Steve Gillespie / staff writer
OCt. 12, 2003
As an editorial board guest of The Meridian Star, Democratic Gov. Ronnie Musgrove talked about his first term and what he wants to do if voters re-elect him in the Nov. 4 general election.
The Meridian Star: There is a lot of criticism of Haley Barbour, the candidate, being a Washington lobbyist. With 37 percent of Mississippi's budget coming from federal transfers, are there any benefits to a governor having connections outside of Mississippi?
Ronnie Musgrove: The campaign this year is not about who can raise the most money or who has the most political friends in Washington. We all have our share of people we know.
The national recession and 9-11 are two issues we've all had to deal with. Those are the cards we've been dealt. When you look nationally at the other states, over the last three years America has lost 3 million jobs. Right now, America is at a nine-year unemployment high.
That's true for every state whether you have a Republican governor, Democratic governor, whether you've got connections in Washington or no connections in Washington. The effects of the national recession have been drastic for everybody.
However, Mississippi is one of the few states in the nation that has not cut essential services and has not raised taxes. I've insisted we do not have to raise taxes and I will not raise taxes.
It ultimately comes down to the decisions of priority and leadership that matter, it's not what friends you've got. Ultimately it comes down to all of us have to deal with the national economy good or bad.
The Star: You say Mississippi has created 56,000 new jobs, but we have lost some jobs along the way so is there a net increase, or decrease, of jobs in your judgment?
Musgrove: One thing that is not debatable is that we have created 56,000 new jobs. That is accurate. The Bush administration said this past week that only two states in the Southeast and this covers a 2002-2003 period had a net gain in jobs. One was Florida, one was Mississippi.
The national recession and terrible trade agreements like NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) and GATT (General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs) have cost America over 3 million jobs in the last three years. The national recession didn't start in Mississippi.
By bringing in Nissan and Howard Computers I use those as big, strong examples of companies making major investment in our state at a time when America is losing jobs at a higher rate than maybe we've lost since World War II we have created jobs because we have invested in the right thing.
My opponent, on the other hand, has been in Washington D.C.
I think it's disingenuous to come down here and say that anybody has lost "x" number of jobs when America has lost "x" number of jobs, and then (he) won't be straight with the people that he helped support the very trade agreement that cost us 41,000 jobs.
As chairman of the Republican National Committee, he supported NAFTA.
He talks about my record as governor, and that's part of what you talk about. I have no problem with that. But he also brings to the table his record. His record does in fact have a bearing on how he approaches this position of governor and his experience, I think, is something the people of Mississippi ought to know.
He doesn't want to talk about that or his lobbying at all. But his position is that NAFTA and GATT are good policy for the United States. I say it's a terrible policy for the United States.
The Star: What are you proudest of in your term as governor?
Musgrove: When you look at the teacher pay raise we passed, being the first state in the nation to put Internet accessible computers in the classroom, when you look at raising the accountability testing program and funding education first, all of those things in education I am very proud of because we are seeing the results of the investment.
The nation's report card says we have improved in our test scores in every grade and in every subject in Mississippi.
Obviously I'm very proud of the more than 50,000 children we've put on the Children's Health Insurance Program, children who are now getting health care who otherwise wouldn't get it.
I'm obviously proud of Nissan and equally as proud of Howard Computers and the effect that it is going to have nationwide and worldwide. Those are some significant things I am very proud of and we've done every bit of it without raising taxes and by setting priorities.
The Star: What will you do as governor for the next four years?
Musgrove: No. 1, I will continue to make education a top priority in my second term. We will continue to improve our test scores. We will continue to raise our standards of accountability. Early childhood development is absolutely essential as we move forward. Also increasing the number of after school programs we have in our state.
Relating to higher education, we will focus on our economic development plan where we focus even more on our community colleges and universities, to fund them, but also make college tuition tax-deductible.
On the creation of jobs, I introduced an economic development strategy that is real, that is specific, that is geared toward the attraction of new companies but also expanding existing companies in our state. Those are my two main priorities.
The other would be health care making sure we continue to focus on reducing the cost of prescription drugs and other high costs, but secondly, making sure we do prevention on diabetes, asthma and hypertension, because when you get a handle on those kinds of illnesses it saves a tremendous amount of money, not to mention it's a better quality of life for our people.

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