Monday, September 1, 2014

Republicans Offer More Empty Words on Labor Day

A tweet from the Mississippi Republican Party was a token gesture to those who are the backbone of our communities and economy: the labor force.

Consider, if you will, a few examples of what Mississippi Republicans have done to show their gratitude.
  • In 2012, the Republican legislature passed and Governor Phil Bryant signed a law to weaken worker's compensation rights in the state. Rep. Gary Chism (R-Columbus) argued that the bill was the "biggest vote for business since tort reform."
  • This year, the Republicans passed a law that would handicap the ability of individuals wishing to organize or have a demonstration. Even Rep. Dennis DeBar (R-Leakesville), the manager of one of the bills being referenced, acknowledged that unions do not have much of a presence in Mississippi, but he wanted to "make a statement."
  • Under Phil Bryant's watch, Mississippi has the highest unemployment rate in the country.
  • Governor Bryant and the Republicans have done everything within their power to prevent hundreds of thousands of working Mississippians from obtaining health insurance coverage. 
  • Governor Bryant and the Republicans have done nothing to raise the state's minimum wage, provide paid sick leave for a worker's to tend to an ill relative or to take leave when she or he is sick, or to ensure that women earn the same salary as a man does for the same job.

It takes a lot of nerve for the Republicans to claim they are thankful and proud of our workers when Republicans do so much to make life difficult for the state's labor force and their families.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Update on the Pete Perry tax situation

I received word today that Pete Perry had cleared up his delinquent taxes referenced in one of Ryan's posts last week.  Mr. Perry's Neshoba County Fair cabin had been listed for tax sale in the local paper, and is currently listed as being up for tax sale on the Neshoba County website as well.

So I called the Neshoba County Tax Collector, Mike Lewis, and asked him if Mr. Perry had paid his delinquent taxes.  Mr. Lewis confirmed that Mr. Perry had, in fact, paid the 2012 taxes that were causing his property to be listed for sale.  However, Mr. Lewis stated that Mr. Perry had not paid his 2013 taxes, which were due February 1, 2014.  So if you're looking at buying a tax deed to Mr. Perry's Fair cabin, you're out of luck this year.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Pete Perry's Courthouse Tour Continues

Hinds County Republican Party Chairman Pete Perry was in the paper for not paying property taxes on his Neshoba County Fairgrounds' cabin. We know Perry was paid a hefty sum by pro-Thad Cochran groups for his assistance during the Republican primary and runoff in June. It's odd that for someone paid so well suddenly does not have the money to pay his taxes.

Perry has had plenty of courthouse appearances this year; first for helping Tea Party intruders in the Hinds County Courthouse on June 4, then his speeding and DUI incident a few weeks later, and now this issue over his property taxes.

We know Perry isn't a lawyer, but he surely knows how to read the fine print.

UPDATE 8/22/14 - Mr. Perry has paid the taxes referenced above.  Click here for the details.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Another Report Confirms What We Already Know

Phil Bryant continues to let working Mississippians go without health care and cost the state money, and he knows it's all about politics.

A report from the nonpartisan Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Urban Institute once again shows that Phil Bryant and his Republican Party continue to refuse millions of dollars which would support health care access for working Mississippians.

The report highlights some important statistics:
  • Roughly 165,000 Mississippians would obtain health insurance coverage if Phil Bryant would open his heart to those without coverage.
  • For every dollar spent on expanding health care access for working people, states get a $13 return on the investment. 
  • Mississippi has lost nearly $14 million in Medicaid funding because of Bryant's refusal to help working people have health care access.
  • Hospitals across Mississippi are suffering under Bryant's watch as they continue to get shortchanged by about $5 million a year in lost reimbursements. 
  • Mississippi's private businesses stand to go without $97 million in grants and tax deductions.
  • Researchers from the Universities of Alabama and South Carolina found that from 2014-2020, Mississippi is likely to gain more general funds to help working people get health care than it will to cover the cost of increased access. In short: We will get more back in private investment than we spend on public investment.
  • If Mississippi were to expand access, our state's GDP would increase over $2.5 billion dollars from 2014-2017.
  • Thousands of Mississippians would also have a job. We already have the highest unemployment rate in the country; putting doctors, nurses, and other health care providers to work would help our standing tremendously.
There is still a great deal of work required to get Mississippi off of the bottom of so many bad lists when it comes to health care. Phil Bryant should realize our state - its citizens and its economy - is hurting. Bryant's political grandstanding has to stop.

Happy Birthday to our Editor!

Just a quick note from Ryan, Kate, and David that we are happy to wish a very happy birthday to Cottonmouth's fearless leader, Matt Eichelberger!

Hope it's a great one!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

This Government Brought To You By Rima Industrial and Mississippi Silicon

A July 24 article in the Daily Journal was a bit of an oddity from what we have seen in recent economic development stories. The article discusses a complaint filed in a United States district court related to plans to build a silicon plant in Tishomingo County by a company called Rima Holding.

The company in question is Mississippi Silicon, which is primarily owned by the company Rima Holding. Rima Holding is owned by Rima Industrial, or a Brazilian family known as the Vicintins.

Here is a little backstory on the parent company: Rima Industrial, its President and CEO, and others connected with Rima have been criminally indicted in a Brazilian court that the company and others were involved in "falsification, counterfeiting (material and ideological) of financial documentation unlawfully used in the transportation and marketing of charcoal, in such manner that all the coal produced from illegal deforestation, and extracted from native forest, was transported and marketed as if it were originating from planted forest with the knowledge and support of the directors and managers of steel industry beneficiaries" as well as "the practice of environmental crimes, crimes against the public trust, money laundering and conspiracy to commit crimes."

The challenge filed in a United States district court argues that that Rima has unlawfully evaded federal anti-dumping laws. This would mean that Rima had sold metals in the United States at unfairly low prices while imposing high duties on its imports. It goes on to say that the company made false statements to intentionally conceal Rima's relationship with other companies. The criminal complaints include mail and wire fraud in falsifying documents submitted to federal officials so they could hide their relationship with its American associates.

This now gets us to Mississippi.

The Mississippi Development Authority granted over $21 million for construction and job training funding and another $3.5 million from Tishomingo County for infrastructure improvements to benefit the project for Mississippi Silicon - which is owned by Rima. This is all for the objective of creating approximately 200 jobs; that's roughly $121,750 per job.

The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), which has been under scrutiny of late, allegedly expedited issuances of environmental permits to speed up construction of the Mississippi Silicon site which has suffered from a lack of funding for nearly three years. Officials within MDEQ, eager to push the paperwork through, feared having an extended open public comment period which would have allowed issues to be investigated and discussed. In fact, there was allegedly some celebration by stakeholders that MDEQ was able to approve the plant's permits in record time. Additionally, the connections between MDEQ and out-of-state consultants is so tight that text messages were reported to have been sent between the MDEQ regulator and a consultant for the Rima-owned project.

Once again, Governor Phil Bryant finds himself in a predicament.

Phil Bryant has taken on business dealings with an indicted on felonious charges, but we have no confirmation that Bryant was unaware these deals were taking place. If Bryant was unaware of this criminal indictment and the connections to Mississippi, how could these developments have gone unnoticed when simple research would inform him of the story?

Let's bear in mind that Phil Bryant has now given over $21 million in state funds to a company and persons under indictment for cheating on their taxes, cutting down precious rain forests so they can build coal mines, defrauding the federal government, and laundering money through overseas bank accounts. If this is what it takes to get over $21 million from Phil Bryant, it would behoove Bryant to explain what someone must do to not get millions of dollars from honest, hardworking Mississippi taxpayers.

The taxpayers of Mississippi need an explanation from Phil Bryant as to why, on his watch, he has allowed our state to be associated with possible criminal activity.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Phil Bryant Takes No Responsibility for Anything

Rather than show any leadership skills, Phil Bryant deflects the blame for an increase in the number of uninsured persons in the state of Mississippi.
"If statistics show that the ill-conceived and so-called Affordable Care Act is resulting in higher rates of uninsured people in Mississippi, I'd say that's yet another example of a broken promise from Barack Obama," said the Republican governor when asked to comment on a study by WalletHub showing the percentage of uninsured in Mississippi has increased 3.34 percentage points to 21.46 percent of the total population.
As a reminder, Bryant scuttled a plan by his fellow Republican Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney to establish a state-based insurance market in Mississippi which would have allowed private insurance companies to sell their products throughout the state. Because of Phil Bryant's stubbornness, thousands of Mississippians cannot obtain health insurance. This is not the President's fault; it's Phil Bryant's fault. Phil Bryant is the governor; Phil Bryant is the person who made the decision which has led to this unfortunate - and preventable - situation from occurring.

According to the article:
Only three Southern states participated in the Medicaid expansion -- Arkansas, Kentucky and West Virginia. All three experienced some of the biggest drops in the percentage of uninsured residents -- 10.74 percent in West Virginia, 8.35 percent in Kentucky and 7.1 percent in Arkansas.
Other Southern states showed leadership to expand health care insurance options to their citizens and, lo and behold, their uninsured rates are dropping! Mind you, the governors of the aforementioned states have Democratic governors. Arkansas even has a Republican-led legislature, and they agreed to assist with broadening Medicaid coverage!

Phil Bryant will not take responsibility for the increase of uninsured persons in the state. Phil Bryant will not take responsibility for the state now having the highest unemployment rate in the country. Phil Bryant will not take responsibility for anything.

The voters of Mississippi should ask what Phil Bryant is responsible for doing other than being a professional passer of the buck.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Phil Bryant Forgets Law He Pushed

During Phil Bryant's 2014 State of the State Address, he urged lawmakers to add the phrase "In God We Trust." That bill, through many changes, turned into one of the most controversial pieces of legislation to pass this year. It even led to the bill being called the "Freedom to Discriminate Bill."

Still, Bryant made a big push for the change to the seal. Now that the bill is in effect, Bryant must have forgotten for what he fought. In his letter to President Obama last week, Bryant's official letterhead does not bear the new state seal. According to the law Bryant signed, "the margin over the eagle shall have the inscription "THE GREAT SEAL OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI." The margin under the eagle shall have the inscription "IN GOD WE TRUST."

It is entirely possible Bryant will say "We had all this leftover stationery lying around and didn't want it to go to waste." I never took Bryant to be an environmentalist, but I'm truly glad to now know this.

On another level, it is a relief that Bryant did not associate God with his misguided letter. In the Book of Matthew, Jesus said that we should "Let the little children come to me, and stop keeping them away, because the kingdom from heaven belongs to people like these."

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Phil Bryant Continues to Push Mississippi Way Off Course

Another report released this week shows Mississippi, once again, at the bottom of the list when it comes to child health, education, and economics. This report comes days after Mississippi was noted as having the worst unemployment rate in the country. Let the graphics below speak for themselves.

We still have half of our children not attending pre-kindergarten! Early childhood education is critical to keeping kids in school and giving them a stronger start in life, yet we have half of them not doing so. We still have far too many students not learning critical skills in math and reading, skills they must have in order to be competitive in today's global economy. 

Troubling numbers in Mississippi's child poverty rate show trouble on the horizon. Unless a focus on poverty in Mississippi becomes a focus of our state government, another generation of poor Mississippians will continue the cycle of chronic poverty in our state.

Governor Phil Bryant gets the credit for these standings. When the unemployment numbers came out last week, this was Bryant's response:
Bryant attributed the slowness of Mississippi's recovery to a surplus of residents who aren't sufficiently educated or trained, which he said he was trying to change.
"I think a lot of them have dropped out of school, a lot of them are not properly trained for advanced manufacturing" Bryant said. "We haven't done as good a job as we should in training workers for the future."
Bryant says that we are better off than we were a couple of years ago, but his leadership keeps us on the very bottom of the lists! Under Bryant's watch, not only is our unemployment the worst in the country, but he admits that he has not done his job when it comes to doing things necessary to improve our state's economic situation. Bryant admitted in a radio interview this week that he does not want to invest in education because it costs money! It is the most illogical thought process. Not only has Bryant failed to create employment opportunities in the state, he is failing to invest in education and training our young people to prepare for the jobs of the future.

This is the Republican Party Phil Bryant is fighting for!

Bryant Economy Costs More Mississippi Jobs

Reports released last week show that under Republican Governor Phil Bryant's watch, the state of Mississippi has the highest unemployment rate in the country. Now, news is coming out that the Margaritaville Casino in Biloxi is closing its doors and taking about 350 jobs with it. Earlier this year, the Harrah's casino in Tunica closed and over 1,000 jobs were lost in the poorest region in our state. These job losses are tragedies for the individuals and families involved. Yet, once again, Bryant throws up his hands and claims there's nothing more he could have done.