February 26, 2024

Transcript of Gov. Tate Reeves’ State of the State address

Therese Apel

oday, Governor Tate Reeves gave his 2024 State of the State Address. Below is the full transcript, as prepared.

Full Transcript:

Thank you, Lieutenant Governor Hosemann and Speaker White.

To the members of the legislature and other elected officials – thank you. Thank you for what you do every single day to make Mississippi an even better place to live, to work, and to raise a family. Together, over the last four years, we’ve accomplished mission after mission for our state. And I have no doubt that by continuing to work together, Mississippi’s best days are in front of us.

I would also like to thank the person who has been at the center of my life for over 23 years, my wonderful wife and our state’s amazing first lady, Elee. Elee has been a source of strength and inspiration for me over the years and especially during my time as governor. She is a terrific mom, an excellent first lady, and a tremendous ambassador for our state. I’m lucky to have her in my life every single day, and I thank God that she is.

Before I go any further, it is with a heavy heart that I recognize the honorable service and tremendous sacrifice of Chief Warrant Officer Zemek and Chief Warrant Officer Abbott. Please join me in a moment of silence and prayer for their many friends and family.

Thank you. This tragic accident is yet another reminder that the freedoms we hold dear are not free. And a huge thank you to all of our brave men and women in uniform that champion freedom both domestically and abroad.

I will warn you this is going to be a boring speech.

It’s got no hot buttons, virtually no conflict, no drama.

What I’m about to do tonight is to go over a game plan. It’s not going to excite the newspaper reporters. It’s probably not going to end up in anybody’s campaign ads. But it is going to make a difference for Mississippi and for our fellow Mississippians.

We have just completed a heated campaign year in our state.

We know that some of you support the policies championed by Joe Biden.

We know that I am what Biden calls an extremist MAGA Republican.

And maybe over the next few weeks, you may be asked to pick which side you are on.

But not by me. And not tonight.

I am not going to focus on our differences. After 2023, we all know what they are.

I am here tonight instead to challenge you as a Legislature to waste no time on the things that divide us, and instead spend your energy this year on things that unite us.

Our state has many challenges. We also have many opportunities. In fact, we have more opportunities than we have ever had before. The task in front of us is whether we can roll up our sleeves and meet these challenges before these opportunities pass us by.

You are limited by our Constitution to 125 legislative calendar days. Time is of the essence. Let’s not waste any of those days.

I am going to present you tonight with a list of tasks we must do together, to put Mississippi in position to attract even more great careers. All across our state, there are children in elementary school and middle school and high school whose future rides on our ability to get this done.

We have attracted more private investment in the first month of this term than we had in the 120 months before I became Governor. And believe me when I tell you that all this movement toward Mississippi has gotten noticed. The people who decide where to locate or expand companies in America see the activity and they are checking us out. Success creates more success and momentum breeds even more momentum.

We have an opportunity to make just a few strategic decisions that can yield major results – and not just improvements far into the future, but right now in the present.

Most of you know me well. Most of us have known each other a long time. You may not think I’m that smart, but I can tell you I am a lot smarter than I was just four years ago. And what I’m smarter about is what it takes to attract new jobs to our state. Recruiting new industry has been my number one priority and it takes up the bulk of my time. It’s given me a new more detailed perspective on what we have to offer – and what we need to do.

For the last year, I traveled the state to say that Mississippi has momentum. In my inaugural address, I articulated our mission: Mississippi Forever. Committing ourselves to the work so that – together – we can make Mississippi a vibrant, prosperous home for all her sons and daughters – forever.

Today, I want to talk a bit more about our vision for the next four years and this state we all take pride in. I want to articulate my ambition for where we can go, which rests on the fundamental nature of who we are.

We all have pride in the Mississippi spirit, and we all know what that means. Sure, it means that we’re hospitable, God-glorifying, and resilient. But it also means that we have discipline and work ethic. This is a state whose economy does not rest on the wizardry of finance or the volatile next-big-thing. This is a state that is based on timeless economies. Agriculture and Forestry. Manufacturing and Industry. Tradesmen, craftsmen, cultivators, and workers dominate our land.

We make things – real things. We make fridges and fighter jets. We make cars and sow cotton. We make bullets and grow soybeans. You can touch our work, and know that highly-trained, capable, proud Mississippi hands made those products.

As long as I have been alive, our country and the western world have been steadily drifting away from this work. We’ve been happy to outsource that labor to others in far-off places. And what has it brought us? What has the bizarre combination of globalization and inflation given us that is better than the work of the hands?

We have a crisis of purpose and abundant despair in America. Anxiety, isolation, and addiction are on the rise. Everyone recognizes that our culture of outsourcing, apathy, and idleness is slowly killing us. The West is recognizing what we’ve lost, and Mississippi is poised to be the big winner in the realignment of our coming time.

In every C-suite in America, they know the need to reshore key industries. They know that we need to bring the work of making things home. For our economy and more importantly our national spirit, we cannot only be a nation of importers.

In all that time, Mississippi never stopped making real things. And now, as our national culture catches up to where we’ve been – we can say with our chest poked out that this is Mississippi’s time.

We can take advantage of this moment and create unimagined wealth, prosperity, and purpose for our state. We can make Mississippi the new American capital of manufacturing, industry, and agribusiness. Mississippi can be the headwaters of America’s supply chain if we are bold.

It is not just the advantage of our hard-working people. World-class Mississippi businesses currently move parts and products around the world thanks to our unique logistics advantage. You can reach 90% of the US population with the shortest average drive and flight times from North Mississippi. Memphis, just to our North, is a global hub for air cargo and transportation served by FedEx and UPS. We are surrounded by water on three sides. In those waters are more than a dozen river ports and ports that are accessible to the Gulf of Mexico. We have deep-water ports at Gulfport and Pascagoula.

We have unique advantages in aviation and aerospace. The Stennis Space Center is overflowing with opportunities for commercial space business. Our abundant and rural aviation assets offer the promise of experimentation and innovation.

Let’s take full advantage of the immovable asset that is our location. There is literally no better place to make things in America for Americans than right here in Mississippi.

To ensure the world cannot deny it, we must continue to invest in our infrastructure to make our logistics second to none.

One of Mississippi’s greatest economic and logistical assets is our ports. We need to develop a plan of action to address our ports’ backlog maintenance and capacity projects. Investing in our critical ports from Vicksburg (which handles 14 million tons of freight annually) to Gulfport (where the global maritime shipping industry requires increased channel depth) will yield economic dividends all across our state. We will attract more companies, create more jobs, and secure even more private investment.

We must also continue to invest in our airports to meet the demands of industry. By increasing capacity of our hangers through the Airport Improvement Loan Fund, we can take additional steps to attract global interest in our state.

And just like we did by creating an Office of Workforce Development, I am also calling on the legislature to establish and fund a state rail authority, whose purpose would be to steward our state’s investments in our rail network. This authority would be an all-encompassing one-stop-shop for all things railroad and would tailor strategies to better develop rail in regions across the state.

Ports, airports, rail – and roads. As good stewards of taxpayer dollars, we should help the Mississippi Department of Transportation increase their efficiency by giving them authority to use alternative delivery methods in completing their construction projects. We have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in MDOT’s maintenance and capacity road-building projects over the last four years, and we should continue these investments, with a plan for the future. Speed to market is critical, and that is why MDOT must use these resources to quickly develop a strategy to evaluate needed improvements at our top site development locations around the state.

World-class logistics infrastructure means world-class speed-to-market. Products move faster. Money flows back faster. More money circulates in our economy. That is the key to our future.

It also means we must have sites that are ready to go for large-scale investment. This is how we are shattering records for economic development. Over the last several years, we have worked with local communities to have 30 sites primed and ready – at all times – for immediate uplifting investment. We have invested over $100 million dollars in our site development program in the last three years and this year we must fully fund that program to continue our record-breaking achievements.

We must take full advantage of the Mississippi Miracle and ensure our workforce grows beyond most-improved and into the most-undeniable. You know how drastically we have improved our schools, and that the nation’s education-reformers are all asking how they do what has been done in Mississippi. We’ve gone from bad to good. Now we must discover how to go from good to great.

We must be innovative. We must be open to new and different models. We should fund students, not systems. We should trust our parents, not bureaucrats, and we should embrace education freedom.

One example of how we can help accomplish this is by expanding a model that has worked on the campus of Mississippi University for Women – the Mississippi School for Math and Science.

To build on this model, I propose that we create 12 Mathematics and Engineering Magnet Schools throughout the state. By establishing eight Pre-K through 8th grade schools and three more high schools, we can help to ensure Mississippi kids are given the education required to be successful in an increasingly technological economy.

In fact, there is already a great location for one of these schools right across the street from this beautiful building – the old Central High School. Imagine hundreds of talented kids from all backgrounds learning the skills they need to be successful as engineers, computer scientists, and technicians at major tech companies like AWS. It would be good for our capital city and it would be great for those kids.

We should also help connect our students with the high-paying jobs our companies need filled. I call on the Legislature to enact an apprenticeship education model for our high school seniors. Students could receive academic credit in a hybrid environment versus the traditional classroom-only setting. Our kids could ‘earn and learn’ – meeting graduation requirements while being paid to develop the skills needed for their career.

Mississippi kids are our future. And by providing them with a cutting-edge education, we will ensure Mississippi’s future remains bright.

It begins in the elementary, middle, and high school classrooms. Then we reach our potential by unleashing Mississippi innovation and research.

We have great minds across many disciplines, but we must double-down when it comes to manufacturing and industrial innovation and invention. We are in a competition for recruitment and retention of talent, and Mississippi has to lead the way. Today, I ask the legislature to establish an incentive program to retain and attract top researchers in relevant fields at our universities. We must win the talent war in order to outpace our competition.

We also need to renew our focus on commercializing these innovations. Right now, across our state, great minds are gathered together. In the halls of our universities. At the US Army’s Engineer Research and Development Center in Vicksburg. Most people, I’m sure, would be shocked to know that there are more PHD’s per capita in that town than any other place in America. At the Stennis Space Center, where innovation beyond anything this planet has ever seen is happening every day.

Mississippi has to take that research and transform it into wealth-generation for our communities. When we learn that art better, everyone can enjoy the spoils that come from the marriage of invention and hard work. We have more highly-credentialed research talent per capita than anywhere in the country. We need to deploy our resources with precision and intensity to seize that opportunity and turn research and innovation into prosperity for our people.

One organization critical to this mission is Innovate Mississippi. With the support of the Mississippi Development Authority, Innovate is administering the deployment of $86 million dollars in federal SSBCI funds. By doubling our investment into their operating budget, we can support the cluster strategy of development demanded by the manufacturers of today and make sure we are leveraging every opportunity to promote technology entrepreneurs in our state.

There is no sector that demands the innovation, workforce, logistics, and ambition that Mississippi can provide like energy. Mississippi must become masters of all energy–from pipelines to turbines and everything in between. As automation and growth unlock more human potential than ever before, there has never been a demand for abundant energy like this. As the spread of previously unimaginable computing power puts more pressure on our national grid, the demand for domestic sources of energy will be limitless. Large manufacturing and data center investments are getting larger and more expensive. The thirst for All-Of-The-Above Energy has never been greater.

We must and will do it all – from oil derricks on our Coast to solar panels in the Delta. I don’t care if it’s green wind power or black crude oil or anything in between. It’s going to be made in Mississippi. All of the above and as much as we can do. As long as it is reliable, resilient, and affordable.

We have so much to offer to America’s energy economy. Biomass from wood and agricultural fiber. We have companies working to unlock the potential of hydrogen and wind due to our abundant land and unique salt domes. We have permitted over two gigawatts of industrial solar production in the last few years. And of course, old reliable, natural gas still powers most of our energy portfolio and it is clean, affordable, and dependable. And we are proud of it.

We should also look at attracting the next innovation. We should attract manufacturing for key components and assembly of small modular nuclear reactors and expedite permitting and regulatory approvals for their rapid deployment within Mississippi. If we can be bold to position ourselves at the front of that wave, Mississippi industry and families will enjoy the rewards for many generations.

And of course my ambition is that this spirit of innovation and pride will carry over into our work in state government. We must transform the way our work is done inside the halls of government. We must unlock the potential that new technologies provide for us to do more with less. We need to reduce the bureaucratic measures that make it impossible for innovation to occur. We have so many layers of red tape between the scoping of a project and implementation that state employees are beleaguered and disillusioned. They have nearly given up on innovation, because our system seems designed to discourage it. We must reform the processes for procuring new technologies or risk falling behind. The economy for public sector technology is robust and competitive. We should do everything in our power to take full advantage of the reduction in cost and improved services to be better for our customers – the people of Mississippi.

I call for the creation of a task force whose goal is to improve technology within and across state government. By improving technology and ensuring it’s implemented in a way that matches actual workflow, we can streamline processes at agencies, reduce the time it takes to complete tasks, share information more easily, and provide more efficient, effective services for Mississippians.

At the end of the day, that’s who all this work is for. We’re all here in this grand building, with all this tradition and ceremony, but we cannot do this for ourselves. That would be a sorry mission. We do all this for the people who selected us for this work. And at the end of the day, they demand only a few things from us.

First, they demand the lowest possible burden on them. That means committing to interfering with their lives as little as possible. We must not convince ourselves that we can solve everyone’s problems, because we know that every intervention in our systems causes countless other ripples. We must be prudent and cautious. We must demand low taxes and regulations. I renew my call to ensure the tax burden on Mississippians is as low as we can possibly afford. Their money circulating in their towns will do more than any additional government program ever could.

And finally, they demand that we provide for safety – law and order. They have entrusted to us a monopoly on force. Our law enforcement officers have to run our streets, not those who use force for brute power or personal gain. That is why we must invest in our public safety efforts and use our resources strategically.

Earlier this month, I was proud to stand alongside our state, local and federal law enforcement partners as we announced Operation Unified – an initiative whose goal is to root out drug traffickers and violent criminals in Jackson.

Working together, we are sending a message to those looking to harm others that their actions will not be tolerated. Together, we are showing criminals that Mississippi will never rest until they are brought to justice and behind bars.

Our law enforcement officers are already making significant progress. To date, Operation Unified has taken 360 criminals off the streets, and we’ve seized 162 firearms and over 34,000 grams in illegal drugs – including fentanyl, meth, and cocaine.

Our law enforcement officers are true heroes and none of this would be possible without them. They are putting themselves in harm’s way every single day to keep us safe, and together, I know we can make real progress in delivering the safety and protection Jacksonians deserve. I’m proud of their work, and I know you’ll support them throughout this important mission and beyond.

Ultimately, if we handle these fundamentals, I know that the people of Mississippi will have cause to say we’ve done our jobs well. We are at our best when we focus on achieving those basic tasks that have been given to us. And then as we achieve those, we can lift our eyes to see what private industry can achieve when we remove roadblocks. We are at our worst when we obsess over divisions. Disagreement and pointed debate is necessary. Then we move forward into our bold, ambitious future. We embrace Mississippi’s momentum. We carry ourselves with pride and make America’s goods here.

I would like to leave you with a bold challenge. It’s bold because it is simple and in politics, the simple things are often the hardest to do.

When we were all sworn in last month, we had a great spirit of bipartisanship. We came together, overwhelmed by our positive feelings toward each other and Mississippi.

I am asking you tonight to put those convictions in action.

Let’s do the things that need to be done, that we can get done, together.

Let’s work on that list this year.

There will be time to go back to politics and disagreement later. But this year, at this time, with these opportunities, let’s come together.

I am proud to be a Mississippian, and proud to work with each of you. I look forward to what we can accomplish over the next four years working together.

God bless Mississippi.

Share this Article


Related Articles