Both candidates in the August 27th run-off for the Republican nomination to Governor have a lot in common. Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves and former Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr. are both very respected, family-oriented men who have dedicated their lives to public service. In their own ways they have spent tireless, and likely many thankless, years working to improve the lives of all Mississippians. They both have very impressive records from the Senate to the Courthouse.
There is, however, one important distinction that requires more than just a superficial examination of the candidates’ records. At its core, conservatism is about limiting government intervention and promoting economic and individual liberties. With this framing in mind there is only one true conservative left to vote for – Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves.
After listening to interviews and numerous speeches across the state, Judge Waller’s policy platform is built on expanding entitlements and raising taxes. In fact, on two of his main policies – infrastructure and healthcare – there is very little daylight between his proposals and those of the Democrat candidate Attorney General (AG) Jim Hood.
Judge Waller’s solution for healthcare in Mississippi is to expand Medicaid. While the Judge refers to this as “Medicaid reform” and won’t mention the politically unpopular “O” word, his proposal is a rebranded version of expanding Obamacare.
The Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, signed into law by former-President Obama included a provision that allowed states to get more federal dollars for healthcare if they expanded Medicaid, a program historically preserved for the extreme poor and disabled, to more people in their respective state. The last administration made Medicaid expansion enticing by promising a 100 percent coverage of the initial costs.
In 2017, the federal government started paring back funding support and the states that bought into this program have had to start picking up the difference, which has already proved to be much more than expected. In response, the states that have opted in are increasing taxes and creating new fees while draining budgetary resources away from other areas like education and infrastructure.
Mississippi Republican voters rightfully do not support this policy. A recent Mason-Dixon poll found that 55 percent of Republican voters are less likely to vote for a candidate who supports Medicaid expansion. The last thing the state needs is increased federal oversight and expansion of a failing healthcare program that comes with a high cost to Mississippi taxpayers as well as an increase on premiums for the privately insured.
Both AG Hood and Judge Waller are also running on a platform that would raise the gas tax although neither willingly says the “T” word. AG Hood talks more in terms of a diesel tax on out-of-state drivers and Judge Waller cleverly refers to his increased costs as a “fee.” The purpose of the tax or fee would be to rebuild Mississippi’s infrastructure. Recall, the state is already on the cusp of receiving millions in new revenue to address the issue of potholes, crumbling roads and unsafe bridges from the forthcoming Mississippi Lottery. This begs the question of why the state would need additional funds from a new gas tax or fee.
Any continuation of inadequate funding after a $200 million boost is indicative of a problem with over-spending, not under-funding. Tax and spend politicians that tend to support increased taxes or fees rarely make the tough budget-cutting decisions needed to get a budget in order. When they run out of money the first time, they come looking for more. Further problematic is that a consumption-based tax, like the gas tax or fee is regressive in the sense that its true costs will be carried by those who can least afford it — low-income and fixed-income Mississippians.
Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves has a pragmatic plan to fix healthcare in Mississippi, not expand its current problems. He also has a plan to strategically reshape the budget so priority programs like education, including teacher pay, infrastructure and support for rural hospitals receive funds needed to improve without riddling the state with new taxes or expanding ineffective entitlements.
The best way for Republicans to win in November is to nominate a person who isn’t ideologically indistinguishable from the Democrat. The best way for Mississippi to thrive is to support an effective, conservative leader with the courage to make the right decisions and the ability to implement them. That true conservative leader is Tate Reeves.
Mandy Gunasekara is a former Trump Administration Official, Founder of Energy 45 and senior contributor to Y’all Politics.