Hosemann campaigns on infrastructure solutions, budget reforms

Tupelo, Miss. (Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal) – With the state’s general election less than three weeks away, Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann is campaigning to be the next lieutenant governor by advocating for the need to revamp the structure of state agencies and repair the state’s deteriorating infrastructure.

Hosemann, the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor, met with the Daily Journal’s editorial board on Monday, where he said he wants to lead reforms to the way the state government treats its gasoline tax by handing a local gasoline tax option over to county government.

In Monday’s interview, Hosemann said he is still developing some of the details of the plan, but said if a local board of supervisors wanted to enact the local gasoline tax within their county, it could vote to put the tax on a ballot initiative for the county residents to vote on. If the voters approve the initiative, the county could receive 100% of those taxes.

Currently, the state has enacted a gasoline tax of 18.4 cents per gallon, where the state government keeps a portion of the tax and a certain portion goes to city and county governments.

“There’s no reason for me to tax the residents of Lee County 12 cents a gallon when you’ve got your roads and bridges fine. It would be where roads and bridges aren’t OK,” Hosemann said. “I don’t see why I have to have a general tax running through the city of Jackson and send you back 23 cents on the dollar when I can give you 100 cents on the dollar. And, if you don’t need it, don’t tax yourself.”

If elected, Hosemann also plans to reform the structure of some state agencies and ask most state agencies to reduce their overall budgets by 1% in order to give many public employees a salary increase, including public school teachers and prison workers. The departments which would not be required to reduce their budget would be education, mental health, child protective services, corrections and the state’s court system.

Hosemann also said he plans to lead and govern the Mississippi State Senate in a bipartisan fashion that is dedicated to solving issues and saying he would work with anyone, regardless of a political party.

He told the Daily Journal, if elected, he intends to interview all of the state’s 52 senators prior to taking office to get a feel for which committee state senators are interested in serving on, and Hosemann said he intends to place both Republicans and Democrats as leaders of committees.

“To me, you get elected under a party designation, but (voters) have asked me ‘Are you going to work across the aisle?’ I don’t see an aisle,” Hosemann said. “After we’ve gotten elected and everybody’s gone through that process, you’ve got to govern.”

Hosemann’s campaign also comes in the middle of a contentious race for governor. The winner of the governor’s race could influence what legislation is voted on in the legislature and impact the relationship between the lieutenant governor and the governor. Previously, news outlet WJTV asked Hosemann who he planned to support in the governor’s race, and he declined to endorse a candidate.

“I think our party will best be served by everybody settling a bit before we do any endorsements and any other things with it,” Hosemann told WJTV last month.

In Monday’s editorial board meeting, Hosemann was slightly hesitant to give an answer on which candidate for governor he wants to work with, but he did say he “wants a Republican governor.”

“Whoever the voters send me, I’m going to work with,” Hosemann said. “I have my preferences, but whoever the voters send me, I’m going to make Mississippi better.”

Hosemann is running against state Rep. Jay Hughes, a Democrat from Oxford, who has run a campaign centered on education policy and working class economic interests. Mississippians will have a chance to vote for lieutenant governor in the general election on Nov. 5.

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