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AP Interview: Bryant says education is top issue

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 1, 2013 at 11:59 am •  Published: January 1, 2013

AP: During a House committee hearing a few months ago, Hispanics said they were concerned that they or their loved ones could be stopped by officers simply because of the way they look, even if a law were to specify racial profiling wouldn't be allowed. What do you think of those concerns?

Bryant: "I know it's a red flag that some groups use, I think, to try to derail the lawful enforcement of the immigration laws. ... A law enforcement officer makes the necessary arrest based on probable cause and facts. Because you've got to arrest that individual, you've got to handcuff them, you've got to take them to jail, you've got to book them in. Then you have to go to court and defend that arrest. And so the idea that a law enforcement officer would say, 'I'm going to profile this individual and somehow have a trumped-up cause to arrest him because he's Hispanic' is just ridiculous. It is not going to happen. And I trust Mississippi law enforcement officers to make certain that doesn't happen."

AP: What kind of economic development proposals are on your 2013 agenda?

Bryant: "We are going to try to work carefully with the Legislature to fund MDA (the Mississippi Development Authority) at a level that is conservative but effective. ... And we will involve the state auditor's office at early stages when we begin to look for incentivizing bringing businesses into the state. That's never been done before, but the state auditor and I have talked and we are anxious and certainly encouraged by his willingness to join us in more transparency."

AP: Are you making proposals to shore up finances of the Public Employees Retirement System?

Bryant: "The PERS board believes that they can grow their investments by 8 percent. If they do that, then their actuary believes that certainly it will begin to grow the revenue to a level to sustain our projected retirees. Now, my concern is, if it doesn't grow at 8 percent, if we don't have those returns on investments, then what? Well, I tell you, the retirement will have to keep coming to the Legislature for more funding ... which, again, reduces the revenue that we have to invest in education, public safety and other issues. What I'd like the board to do is to take, for example, a three-year period and to say at the end of this three-year period if your projections have not been met, if you haven't grown by the 8 percent investment, make concrete recommendations of how the difference will be made. ... I think we have a responsibility to deliver on our promises to retirees."

AP: You've said repeatedly that you oppose expanding Medicaid under the federal Affordable Care Act. Do you still oppose it?

Bryant: "We'll resist it. ... We would simply have to raise taxes or make draconian cuts in state budgets."

AP: You talk about wanting to expand the medical industry in Mississippi. People who support expanding Medicaid enrollment say the extra federal money could help drive the addition of more medical facilities and workers.

Bryant: "I think it's a difference between looking at the world from a public view, a public political view, and a private-sector view. And the private-sector portion of me says to expand the health care industry as an economic driver that we need to bring in more doctors, more nurses, create more jobs. Now, creating those jobs through public dollars means that you've got to take money from someone else in Mississippi to provide those jobs. ... It's not as if doctors are going to move to Mississippi and we're going to all the sudden have just more nurses that magically appear. ... If tomorrow we began to expand Medicaid and in two years we added 300,000 Mississippians, all you're going to do is reduce access to care for everyone. Because you're basically going to have the same population of doctors and nurses."