Gubernatorial candidates discuss economy, job creation

LONG BEACH, MS (WLOX) - A group of men who hope to lead the state of Mississippi as governor gathered in Long Beach Wednesday for a political forum sponsored by the Coast Young Professionals and others.

South Mississippi voters provided questions for the candidates.  The topics ranged from a state smoking ban, to early childhood education.

However, the first question dealt with topics that have been at the front of everyone's mind:  the economy and the job market.

Nine of the eleven candidates running for governor were on hand to give their ideas for improving both.  Of those competing in the primary elections, three republican candidates and four democratic candidates were present.

The candidates each had a minute and a half to answer, and their order of speaking was chosen randomly.

The first question asked was the following: "High unemployment remains a concern in Mississippi. What specific initiatives or efforts will you make as Governor to increase job opportunities in Mississippi generally, and South Mississippi in particular?"

"I would start a brand new tax role of severed mineral rights.  They've been severed for 150 years. This money is going into your county's general fund," said Democratic Candidate Guy Dale Shaw.

"Foster an environment for growth.  That would be: predictable regulatory environments, predictable tax structures so that if someone comes in and invests in your state, they're not going to be hit with a changing tax burden or a changing regulatory environment," said Republican candidate Dave Dennis.

"The government does not create jobs, but it sure can aid in creating jobs. We aided in creating 1,000 jobs in Hattiesburg last year which is unheard of in many cities in Mississippi," said Democratic candidate Johnny Dupree.

"We must change our image in this state. This is a great state full of great people. A lot of people don't come here; don't bring their business, their small business here," said Republican candidate Hudson Holliday.  "Seventy percent of the business in this area is small business. We target the big business and sometimes give away the farm to do so. But we have to create a business friendly environment. We've got to remove the inventory tax."

"It makes no sense to me that we send all this money to Jackson in the form of unemployment insurance, and we trickle it back down to those unemployed. What we need to do is give a tax credit to those who give displaced workers a place to work and stop creating an environment where an employee is a liability to a business," said Republican candidate Ron Williams.

"The best job program is a great, quality education, starting with early childhood learning and continuing right on through in high school to your choice of career path, whether it takes you to a community college or a four year institution," said Democratic candidate Bill Luckett.

"We need to fully fund education and rehire those teachers. With the gambling tax, increasing the gambling tax and oil and gas tax, we can hire more state employees, highway workers, policemen, firemen. This would be a way to create jobs," said Democratic Candidate Bill Compton.

The other candidates present were Reform Party Candidate Shawn O'Hara and Independent Candidate William Oatis.  Neither is competing in the primaries.

The deadline to register to vote in the primaries is this Saturday, July 2, at noon.