"Ron, you got a bigger round of applause than I did," Bryant said.
Bryant also announced the formation of a nonprofit group that will promote medical jobs. He said the Mississippi Health Care Solutions Institute, led by Jackson cardiologist Dr. Clay Hays, will serve as a Chamber of Commerce, "bringing our medical industry together and supporting health care as an economic driver in our state."
Bryant repeated what he has said for months, that he opposes expansion of Medicaid under the federal health law that President Barack Obama signed in 2010. Such expansion is optional, and Bryant said it would be too expensive, even with the federal government paying most of the tab the first few years. Mississippi has a population of just under 3 million people, and more than 600,000 people are enrolled in Medicaid, the federal-state health insurance program for the needy.
"Let me be clear. Any law that will add 300,000 Mississippians to a federal entitlement program partially funded by the state will either result in a huge tax increase or drastic cuts to education, public safety, job creation and other budgets," Bryant said. "It will leave our children and grandchildren with ballooning federal debt."
In the Democratic response, Rep. Bryant Clark of Pickens said Mississippi has an 8.6 percent unemployment rate because Republicans who hold most statewide offices don't have a plan to create jobs.
"It is a sad truth that at a time when so many of our families are struggling with serious kitchen table issues such as paying bills; saving for college and finding work, Mississippi Republicans are fixated on an agenda aimed at deepening the divisions between us rather than calling us to a common purpose," Clark said.
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