Phil Bryant was born on December 9,1954 in Moorhead, Mississippi. He and his wife, Deborah, have two children, Katie and Patrick. They live by the rule; faith and family always come first. In his youth, Phil Bryant learned the importance of hard work, leadership and education by his parent’s example. He holds a Master’s degree in political science, and is an adjunct professor of Government at Mississippi College. He has co-authored three books, and is a former Deputy Sheriff. In 1990, Phil Bryant became a member of the Mississippi House of Representatives, where he was Vice Chairman of the Insurance Committee and served for five years. He was appointed as the State Auditor by Governor Kirk Fordice in 1996, and elected to a full term in the office in 1999, then re-elected in 2003. With an overwhelming 59% of the vote, Phil Bryant was elected Mississippi’s 37th Lieutenant Governor in November 2007. Working closely with Governor Haley Barbour, he has helped secure financing for global businesses to locate in Mississippi. He is a strong fiscal conservative.
GTP: You come into this gubernatorial race with exceptional experience. You are also in a unique position because as Lt. Governor, you are already privy to every nuance of our Mississippi government – and have an “inside line” so to speak. Please tell me what you think needs the most attention in our state and what you will do as governor to improve the status quo, should you be elected?
FB: “First and foremost, we have to make Mississippi the most business-friendly state in the country. Putting more Mississippians to work goes a long way toward making so many of the improvements we want to achieve. I will direct the Mississippi Development Authority to attract new industries to our state, and it’s important that our community colleges are in the loop, ready to train our people for these jobs. I’ll assemble a commission to review all of the regulations that affect businesses to see which ones are unnecessarily burdensome. And, of course, one of the most important things we can do to attract businesses is to provide a stable environment. Businesses don’t want to locate in a state where the threat of tax increases or frivolous lawsuits constantly hangs over their heads.
Another thing I plan to do is to usher the Smart Budgeting Act through the Legislature. This act will make the state budget more transparent, and it will fund our state agencies based on specific, measureable goals instead of how much they received the year before.
I’ve made it a goal to have 1,000 new doctors in Mississippi by 2025. We know that every new doctor will result in $1.5 million in local economic impact, including new jobs they create with nurses, other staff, medical equipment and construction. Our physicians are on the front lines of improving healthcare in our state, and it’s just good economics to increase the numbers of medical students graduating from University Medical Center. We must do what it takes to incentivize these doctors to state and contribute to the healthcare and economy of Mississippi.”
GTP: It is imperative that government work toward a more cohesive America. The relationship between Democrats and Republicans is very strained at best. Rather than pulling together for the good of our country, and for the good of our state – the parties pull further and further apart. Please tell me how you would bring people together again and how would you build a government that works as a team…not as adversaries?
FB: “Mississippians know how to work together. We’ve proved that over and over. The problem occurs when there’s a void in leadership. On the national front, Barack Obama, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi have eliminated any concept of cooperation. It’s not leadership to spring a sweeping healthcare overhaul on Congress and rush it through without adequate debate, and it’s not leadership to demand Congress to pass another huge stimulus package without giving them the specifics of the plan.
My goals are to make Mississippi a better place, and I can work with anyone – regardless of their party – who has that as their top priority. It’s important to remember, however, that we may not all agree what’s best for the state, and from time to time, we’ll argue on those points. There’s nothing wrong with disagreeing on points of policy. Healthy debate can stimulate new ideas and new approaches.”
GTP: Mississippi is home to some of the brightest, and most talented people in the country. Sadly however, our education system leaves much to be desired. Test scores are low, teen pregnancy rates are at an all time high, and drop outs are quite prevalent. Children are often being “pushed through” each grade whether they have learned the material or not. Young people are entering the work force or applying to colleges when they are ill equipped to be out in the world. They cannot spell, read, or do simple math, yet they have a diploma. As governor, what will you do to ensure that learning is the number one priority in Mississippi schools, and that this cycle will be broken?
FB: “Mississippi has to compete with the world now, and we can’t effectively do that with a population that is not educated and trained. On one hand, we have to make education funding a top priority relative to economic realities, and on the other hand, we need to realize that not every child can or wants to go the route of a 4-year university degree.
A good plumber, an electrician, a mechanic or a welder is extremely valuable in any city or community in Mississippi, and as we bring in new businesses and industries, they’ll need employees with specialized technical skills. This is where our community college system can play and invaluable role, and one of the things I want to do as part of the performance-based budgeting is to reward the community colleges for each person they train who is employed by one of these new or expanding businesses.
On the traditional education front, we need to make sure we put the best teachers in the classroom and give them a reason to stay in Mississippi. Teacher pay is one of the first things people talk about, but there are other reasons teachers leave the classroom and the profession. There has to be discipline in the school, there has to be community support, and parents need the option of having charter schools in failing school districts.”
GTP: The Gulf Coast has always enjoyed a rather close relationship with Haley Barbor. He has been a “hands on” governor and very visible here during his time in office. Please tell me what Gulf Coast residents can look forward to under your leadership?
FB: “Some economists suggest that one-third of Mississippi’s economy is driven by businesses and industries on the Gulf Coast. Clearly, the stretch from Pascagoula to Pearlington is a magnet for people and jobs, and that will continue to increase in my administration. The expansion of the Port of Gulfport positions Mississippi to be a key beneficiary of the improvements being made at the Panama Canal.
In the wake of Katrina, then the oil spill, two of the Gulf Coast’s biggest economic engines took a huge body blow. The fact is that Mississippi’s coastline was inundated by more misleading reports from national news outlets than oil, and this crushed much of the tourism industry on the Gulf Coast. That is why I took a strong stand to calm the fear fueled by the national media. I think we need to continue to promote all of Mississippi’s tourism opportunities, especially the Gulf Coast. The other part of the coast economy that took a tough hit was the seafood industry. We need the seafood industry in Mississippi to bounce back bigger and better, and I’ll continue to press to make sure our waters are clean and safe.
As governor, I would like to see Mississippians take advantage of what we have. As important as it is to bring in new dollars, it’s just as critical to keep our in-state dollars turning over in our economy. In-state tourism is a big part of that, and I want to promote it.”
GTP: Fly by contractors made fortunes in south Mississippi after Katrina. They prayed upon homeowners who where in desperate need of their services, did shoddy work and then fled – never to be heard from again. In the event of another catastrophic storm, what will be done in your administration to help protect the citizens of the Gulf Coast from falling victim to such unscrupulous practices?
FB: “First of all, it’s important that people do everything they can to protect themselves by doing business with reputable, licensed and bonded in-state contractors. These are people we can monitor, and they have something to lose if their work isn’t up to par. Beyond that, I would encourage the Attorney General to vigorously prosecute the contractors who swindle homeowners and businesses.”
GTP: Your opponent intends to revamp the Medicaid system in Mississippi and make the process of getting benefits easier. What are you plans for the Medicaid system if you are elected Governor?
FB: “Medicaid plays an important role in Mississippi, but we need to be good stewards of the millions upon millions of dollars that pay for those services. We must continue to have face-to-face verification of Medicaid recipients, and this does two things: it gives the state the opportunity to see if the recipient’s condition has changed and whether new services or a change in service is needed, and it helps eliminate fraud.
At the same time, we must be diligent in fighting the implementation of Obamacare. Besides the fact that Obamacare is unconstitutional because it forces a large number of people to buy insurance at a government-set price with government-set benefits, dumping 300,000 new cases into Mississippi’s Medicaid system will bankrupt the state and crush the quality of service to the recipients.”
GTP: The job market is so depressed all over America, and it is no different in Mississippi. Please tell me how you plan to create jobs and what you have in mind in order to entice big corporations to bring their business here?
FB: “First of all, don’t believe for one second that big corporations are the only answer. While large businesses and industries are part of the equation, small businesses provide most of the jobs in Mississippi. We have to make sure we have the right business climate – low taxes and a reasonable regulatory environment – to nurture Mississippians’ entrepreneurial spirit. Starting a new business can be daunting, and we have to make sure that government isn’t a scary impediment that prevents someone from trying.
As I’ve said, we’ve got to continue to make workforce development a priority. Every business considering a move to Mississippi first inquires about workforce strengths and weaknesses. We must actively seek out more partnerships between companies and local community colleges. The Chevron Pascagoula Refinery is an example of this approach having positive outcomes for both the community and the sponsoring company.
Mississippi is on the cutting edge of the new energy economy, and we have to take advantage of that. Mississippi is an important energy state because both the significance and diversity of our energy assets and infrastructure. We have a major network of interstate energy pipelines, oil refineries and diverse electricity generation from sources like nuclear, coal, lignite and natural gas. With the advent of smarter technologies in the biofuel arena, Mississippi can help lead the United States toward energy independence.”
GTP: Please explain you platform and tell me what are your primary goals fro Mississippi should you whin in November? Tell me why the Gulf Coast citizens of South Mississippi should vote for you?
FB: “My administration will hit the ground running, and Priority 1 is job creation and all that goes with that. I’m a fiscal and social conservative who has never lost site of the fact that every penny of tax money came from someone who had to earn it, and it’s my responsibility to make sure tax money is spent wisely.
Our current system of budgeting is broken. It doesn’t work. Funding state agencies based on how much they received in prior years ignores whether the agency is operating efficiently. My Smart Budget Act will put agencies on notice that we’ll fund programs that are successful, and we’ll eliminate those that are not, hopefully, saving the taxpayers money and returning it to them.
I’ve been a legislator, the State Auditor and the Lieutenant Governor. I have a proven track record of making the tough decisions and standing up for what’s right.”