JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves says cutting taxes, supporting education and improving infrastructure are among his priorities this year.

“We tell every young parent: We will be your partner in educating your child. Together, we will make sure that if they work hard, they will learn what they need to know,” Reeves said in the prepared text of the speech.

The Republican — now in his third year in the state’s highest office — mentioned those issues, and others, during his State of the State speech Tuesday.

Reeves called on the Republican-controlled Legislature to eliminate the state income tax, saying that would help Mississippi attract more jobs.

“By eliminating the income tax, we can put ourselves in a position to stand out,” Reeves said.

The House has already passed a bill that would phase out the income tax, reduce the tax on groceries and reduce the property taxes that people pay for car tags. That bill goes to the Senate, where leaders have not revealed their own plans for tax changes.

Reeves said he is supporting a pay raise for teachers. The House and Senate are working on plans.

“Teachers in Mississippi did not, and will not, back down amid this unprecedented educational battle between a virus and a child’s right to learn,” Reeves said, according to the text. “That is why we must give our teachers the pay raise they deserve.”

Mississippi is receiving $1.8 billion in pandemic relief money from the federal government. Reeves said he agrees with Republican Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann about spending the money on “transformative” projects.

“We must stay focused on those investments that will have an impact not for one or two years, but for one or two generations,” Reeves said in the prepared text. “I wholeheartedly support his plan to put the bulk of that money into local infrastructure projects that can put those concerns behind us for years.”

Mississippi governors usually give their State of the State speeches in the state House chamber, with legislators and other officials sitting shoulder-to-shoulder. Reeves has given each of his outside the Capitol.

In 2020, Reeves gave his State of the State on a platform that had been built on the Capitol’s south steps for his inauguration. Reeves was inaugurated inside the Capitol because of bad weather. Days later, the speech provided an occasion for the platform to be used.

In 2021, the speech was outdoors because of the coronavirus pandemic. The governor’s office did not immediately announce a reason for the open-air setting this year.

Greenville Mayor Errick D. Simmons issued the Democratic response to the State of the State address.

Good afternoon. My name is Errick D. Simmons. It is my great honor to represent all of our cities and towns in Mississippi. As Greenville’s Mayor, I am delighted to speak to you and I bring greetings on behalf of the Mississippi Delta.

As we talk tonight, nearly 11,000 Mississippians have died because of COVID-19 and close to 700,000 Mississippians have contracted the virus. Recently, we have experienced our state’s largest single day total of 9,000 COVID cases since the pandemic. From my family to yours, we are in this together. You are not alone.

To our city leaders and first responders, thank you for your dedicated service, leadership, and commitment to each and every citizen in your community and every Mississippian. Municipal leaders, like you, continue to be on the frontlines responding to the call to continue municipal services on one end while showing epic leadership in working collectively to move and keep the state intact during a global pandemic on another.

To our doctors, nurses, EMTs, home staff members, respiratory therapists, and other healthcare workers,—who continue to make great sacrifices in saving lives, we know that you are overworked and underpaid. It were you who reached out to your state leaders this past summer and fall begging for pandemic relief and help. Democrats stood with you then. And, Democrats stand with you now. We too call on the Governor and Legislature to put those federal funds to work, which were intended for and required to help save our lifesavers, keeping people on the job, and connecting people to better jobs.

As Omicron continues to push case counts to sky-high levels, hundreds of thousands of working Mississippians are left without healthcare coverage. It is no better time than now to afford those Mississippians the access they need. And Democrats don’t care what you call it. Mississippi families desperately need access to affordable, quality healthcare. More healthcare access means that the state’s working poor would be provided no cost healthcare. More healthcare access would stop the bleeding of our nurses leaving the state. More healthcare access would re-open the doors of rural hospitals in the Mississippi Delta and around the state. More healthcare access means the state will receive $10-$12 billion dollars in total revenues over the next decade. More healthcare access would create an estimated 9,000 high-paying medical jobs in our cities and towns in Mississippi.

Thanks to the Biden-Harris Administration for the largest long-term investment in our infrastructure and competitiveness in nearly a century. Democrats and Republicans alike should extend a special thank you to Congressman Bennie G. Thompson and Senator Roger Wicker for supporting this once-in-a-generation investment in Mississippi’s infrastructure.

If President Biden, Congressman Thompson, and Senator Wicker, can reach across the aisle and deliver an investment of this magnitude, then there is no reason we can’t come together, work together, and tackle any issues we face as a state- from climate change to voting rights; child care, elder care, equal pay for equal work, criminal justice reform, adequate public school funding, college access and job training, healthcare access, and a number of real issues facing every child, parent, teacher, first responder, healthcare worker, business leader, religious leader, and every Mississippian in this state. Democrats stand ready, because we know that the pothole in Gulfport nor bridge in Greenville wears a party label that says Democrat or Republican.

For far too long, policymakers in Jackson have supported infrastructure projects in certain parts of the state without ever agreeing to establish and build a comprehensive infrastructure package that will invest in all of Mississippi, especially those communities that have too often been left behind.

Thanks to our federal partners, Mississippi can rebuild and repair our roads, bridges, water and sewer systems, expand access to clean drinking water, ensure every Mississippian has access to high-speed internet, tackle the climate crisis, advance environmental justice, and make long overdue improvements to our ports, airports, and rails.

Democrats will also continue to support one of the largest employers in our cities and towns-our public education system. A pay raise for teachers and other state employees should be a regular occurrence and it is encouraging that Republicans are now joining with Democrats to raise our teacher’s pay to the southeastern average. Democrats firmly believe that teachers AND state employees deserve a raise. The future of state is how we reward and retain our workers.

Our future Mississippi economy depends on the strength of our workforce. Democrats don’t believe in this notion that there must be winners and losers when it comes to Mississippi. We can’t be truly Mississippi Strong until every city, town, county, and region of Mississippi is strong. The state must place as much emphasis on the workforce development and economic prosperity of Greenville as it does Gulfport, Oxford and Ocean Springs, Bhalia and Brandon, Leland and Laurel, D’Lo to D’Iberville, Metcalfe and Mendenhall, and extends state economic development and workforce development funds equally to improve the lives of ALL Mississippians and areas and regions of our state. Because of decades of economic development and job creation neglect in certain areas of the state, special attention must be given to the Mississippi Delta and Southwest Mississippi. Not until then will Mississippi truly become Mississippi Strong!

Mississippi will be strong:

· When high schoolers continue their education in either going to college or going into some type of trade to better themselves, their families, and their communities.

· When we address care needs of workers and their families so they can go to work, make fair and livable wages in a safe and equitable workplace with access to training opportunities and career advancement.

· When small, women-owned, and minority businesses have the blueprint to step into the global marketplace to show the world what Mississippi has to offer and Mississippi expands opportunities to them in a fair, inclusive, and equitable manner at every level of government.

· When our returning brothers and sisters realize their futures are not based on the ills of one’s past but the skills to do their jobs.

· When we implement policies that make it easier for folks to register and exercise their right to vote and eliminate barriers or restrictions to that sacred fundamental right.

· When we make our communities safer by reducing prison populations and finding creative alternatives to secure detention while critically funding programs that address mental health, drugs, gangs, and other factors of crime.

· When every child regardless of race, sex, income, and region will not be left behind but will have a step forward in viable careers, pathways, and opportunities here in Mississippi knowing he or she can find a good paying job here, raise a family here, and live the American dream here in an inclusive, better Mississippi.

Our cities and towns have a lot to be proud of and so does Mississippi.

As we work together to improve upon what we already have, let Mississippi become the diamond that the world cannot resist coming out to see.

Let Mississippi become the mystery that draws in the curious from around the world.

Let Mississippi become the buffet of excellence that the world must come to taste.

Lastly, let Mississippi – her cities, towns, counties, and all her regions – become the oasis from which others drink.

We, together as Mississippians, will move this state forward, make it an inviting place to live, work, play and worship, and make Mississippi better for future generations.

God Bless You and God Bless, the State of Mississippi.

Greenville Mayor Errick D. Simmons