Mississippi is inaugurating GOP's Tate Reeves as governor

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JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Republican Tate Reeves is being inaugurated as the new governor of Mississippi on Tuesday, ascending to the state's highest office after serving the past eight years as lieutenant governor and the eight years before that as the elected state treasurer.

Reeves, 45, succeeds two-term Republican Gov. Phil Bryant. The two men have pushed tax cuts and trimmed state budgets. Reeves inherits several immediate challenges as governor, including an understaffed state prison system that was recently shaken by deadly violence.

In the gubernatorial election in November, Reeves defeated fourth-term Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood and two lesser-known candidates.

Reeves was the 32nd lieutenant governor of Mississippi and will be the 65th governor. He is the 12th lieutenant governor to become governor of the state, and is the only one to have served two terms as lieutenant governor before being elected to the higher office.

Bryant was lieutenant governor one term before winning the governorship in 2011. Mississippi governors are limited to two terms. Bryant said he told Reeves the same thing that his own predecessor, Republican Haley Barbour, told him about being governor.

“It's going to be the most demanding job you've ever had,” Bryant, 65, said last week. “There's no 8 to 5, so you have to manage problems, big problems, on a daily basis. But I said, 'Get your agenda, those things that you're passionate about and keep moving on them. Just stay the course.'”

Republicans this term have maintained control of the Mississippi House and Senate. With Hood out of office and replaced by a Republican, the GOP now holds all eight statewide offices.

Mississippi has among the lowest teacher salaries in the United States. Reeves and legislative leaders have all said they want to enact a teacher pay raise this year, although they have not released specific proposals.

Reeves is keeping some state agency directors from the Bryant administration. He will replace others, including Corrections Commissioner Pelicia Hall, who announced Dec. 31 that she would leave her job in mid-January to work in the private sector.

Five inmates were killed inside Mississippi prisons between Dec. 29 and Jan. 3. Because of damage caused at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman, the state entered a 90-day emergency contract last week and moved 375 inmates to a private prison nearby.

Hall and other corrections officials had repeatedly told Reeves and other legislative budget writers that Mississippi has difficulty hiring enough prison guards because of low pay, long hours and the dangers of the job. Despite that, legislators reduced spending on the prison system during the current year, which started July 1, and they are recommending another reduction for next year. As lieutenant governor, Reeves has had a prominent role in setting state budgets.


Follow Emily Wagster Pettus on Twitter: http://twitter.com/EWagsterPettus.

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