Lieutenant governor sees great potential, despite economic challenges

By Steve Phillips - bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Lieutenant Governor Phil Bryant says Mississippi faces significant "challenges and opportunities" as the economy struggles.

He shared an upbeat message with the Gulfport Rotary Club Thursday.

Bryant says despite national economic struggles, he has an optimistic outlook for the state's economic future.

"When I see the potential of this state, you can't help but get excited," said Bryant to a room full of Rotarians.

The lieutenant governor said a shining example of potential could be seen out the window of the Great Southern Club, The State Port at Gulfport and its ambitious expansion plan.

"Over one billion dollars I think will be invested in helping develop that port that could create tens of thousands... did you hear me... tens of thousands of jobs along the Mississippi Gulf Coast," Bryant said.

Bryant also touted Chevron's recently announced upgrade.

"Where they're going to be able to get almost 100 percent of gasoline and diesel fuel out of a barrel of oil. No more of that little white powder that was a by product of that. This is going to be the most modern, a half billion dollar investment, most modern refinery system in the world."

The lieutenant governor says the proposed tax increase on cigarettes could supply replacement revenue to lower the state's inventory tax, an idea the business community likes.

"That inventory tax is difficult for businesses. We could draw in more, more businesses that will want to come to our cities and counties and our state if we say we have a method to reduce inventory tax," says Bryant.

He also told Rotarians to expect an economic development announcement soon involving USM.

"Polymer science school is going to be involved in a great, dynamic economic development opportunity with General Electric. They want them to actually create a new product."

Bryant says most state agencies will experience cutbacks this year, but he expects the adequate education program will be fully funded.

Bryant says funding Medicaid remains a real challenge. He says the state faces another 90 million dollar deficit in that program next year.

The lieutenant governor says the long term solution will involve the difficult task of reducing the number of people ono Medicaid.