Mississippi primary election runoff for governor is Tuesday, August 27. Candidates Tate Reeves and Bill Waller took part in an interview with AFA Action’s vice president Rob Chambers. Reeves and Waller were asked the same questions related to issues on: health care rights, Medicaid expansion, religious liberty, sanctity of life, LGBT rights, government corruption, increasing gas tax, and free speech on college campuses. Videos below provide a side-by-side comparison for you to watch and see how they respond to the questions.
AFA Action: The constitutional right-to-life of an unborn baby is a well established argument. More recently, health care has also been considered a right-to-life issue—meaning no one should be denied access to health care. Do you consider health care a guaranteed, constitutional right or do you view health care as a commodity—a good and service provided by a third party? Please explain your answer.
AFA Action: Mississippi’s university and college students have a constitutional right to freely express their ideas. Quarantining students to a certain “free speech zone” violates this student’s constitutional right to free speech. As governor, what polices or legislation would you endorse to eliminate these restrictions on campus free speech?
AFA Action: Mississippi’s religious liberty law, House Bill 1523, prevents the state from discriminating against a person’s religious liberty if he or she refuses to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding. Do you support this law and believe it to be necessary? Why or why not?
AFA Action: Abortion clinics and biomedical firms have been under public scrutiny for engaging in commerce of aborted baby parts for profit and for research purposes. As governor, what policies or legislation would you endorse that would ban the sale and research using aborted baby parts?
AFA Action: In a 5-4 decision, the majority of the MS Supreme Court justices allowed same-sex divorce which effectively nullified Mississippi’s constitutional prohibition on same-sex marriage without articulating any legal, constitutional reasoning. The MS Constitution requires Supreme court justices discharge their duties in agreement to both the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution and laws of the State of Mississippi. MS gubernatorial candidate Bill Waller was Chief Justice of the MS Supreme Court at the time and voted with the majority. Waller was asked to explain his rationale for his decision to allow same-sex divorce that gave the court a majority. Reeves was asked if the Mississippi Supreme Court Justices should have even heard the case. Both Reeves and Waller were asked if MS Supreme Court justices are bound to follow U.S. Supreme Court precedent that has no basis in the Constitution, no basis in U.S. Supreme Court precedent, and are blatantly wrong?
AFA Action:In October, the U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments on whether or not transgender people have employment protections under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The case is about a Michigan funeral home owner and a male employee who began dressing as a female claiming he was transgender. The business owner cited his religious beliefs as a basis for termination of employment. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission representing the transgender claims the funeral home violated federal law banning sex discrimination. Both Reeves and Waller were asked: Do you believe an employee’s gender preference should overrule the religious liberty of an employer? If the U.S. Supreme Court rules against the funeral home, how would you instruct your administration to respond if elected governor?
AFA Action: Expanding Medicaid would increase access to health insurance for more low-income workers, or those who earn too much money to qualify for Medicaid. At least two plans have been offered as examples: The “Mississippi Cares” plan proposed by the Mississippi Hospital Association, and Arkansas’ expansion-based reform. The “MS Cares” plan has a work requirement and a monthly premium. The Arkansas plan also has a Medicaid work requirement. The state enforced the work requirement law resulting in about 20,000 being forced off its health care plan, but in March, a federal judge struck down not only Arkansas’ work mandate but also Kentucky’s. The federal judge said Arkansas could not force non-workers from the state’s health care plan. This forced Arkansas to add thousands of non-workers to the Medicaid role. It is still being litigated.
Both Reeves and Waller were asked: What would prevent a judge from striking down a MS Medicaid work requirement that would also result in adding significant numbers of non-working individuals to Medicaid? Do you think Medicaid reform moves the state closer to a single payer system that would put at risk, state education funding for K-12, and funding for infrastructure repair for roads and bridges?
AFA Action: Mississippi government has seen its share of corruption. The FBI has investigated fraud that led to prosecution related to the Department of Marine Resources, the MS Department of Corrections, as well as the $200 million health care fraud in Hattiesburg. Also, in Choctaw County, local and state officials are having difficulty reconciling an issue related to the county’s nursing home and the facility’s management company that overbilled Medicaid by $6.2 million dollars. If elected, what is your plan of action to aggressively investigate and eliminate fraud within state government?
AFA Action: Funding for Mississippi roads and bridges is complex. Legislation raising the gas tax has not passed in the previous two sessions, and neither has the MS Department of Transportation received additional allocation requested. In an interesting sequence of events, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration said a number of timber bridges had not been properly inspected and declared unsafe. Elaine Chao (Sen. Mitch McConnell’s wife) is U.S. Secretary of Transportation and over the U.S. DOT. After Secretary Chao declared bridges unsafe, Gov. Bryant began ordering bridge closures on this basis. Local city and county bridges and roads represent the greatest number in need of repair. The most significant problem with infrastructure is at the local level, but the state is being blamed for poor road conditions of local governments. An increase of the current 18 cents/gallon gas tax is argued to provide a windfall of revenue at the local level for needed infrastructure repair.
Judge Waller stated 25% of the gas tax goes to local government. (The 75% goes elsewhere, state highway funds?) Waller, by way of example, said if the tax goes up 6 cents/gallon (from 18-24 cents/gallon) that localities would reap the benefits of that extra 1.5 cents/gallon revenue (6*.25=1.5). This would generate to the state an approximate $34.5 million in extra tax revenue for cities and counties based on 2018 gas tax statistics from the Department of Revenue. The funding is much, much more complex than this, but as an example, if that amount ($34.5M) were divided equally among the 82 counties, each county would receive an additional $420,700. Judge Waller mentioned a Neshoba county bridge was reported to be in need of a $2 million repair. Lt. Gov. Reeves says the gas tax is not the windfall of revenue it’s claimed to be for local governments.
Reeves and Waller were both asked: What positive impact would an increased gas tax have on city and county roads and bridges? How do MS state-controlled highways compare to those in other states?