Gov. Haley Barbour campaigns in Picayune
Gov. Haley Barbour was campaigning for reelection in Picayune Wednesday on a trail that also had stops in Jeff Davis and Harrison counties.
“I come to Pearl River County a lot. My wife’s family is from here. It’s an important county for a Republican,” Barbour said.
Barbour came to town to walk Canal Street from the Magnolia Coffee House to the corner of Canal and Main, where the Republican party had set up a voter registration table. Barbour was encouraging people to register to vote and support him in November’s election, as well as answering questions from voters.
At a stop at Gulf Coast Homecare, one worker expressed concern about the future of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIPS).
Barbour said that while the CHIPS program was only a 10-year program initially started in 1997, there has been a 48-day extension granted while efforts are made to find new solutions.
“What Congress has passed so far is terrible for Mississippi. We have over 60,000 children enrolled in CHIPS, but we have over 70,000 children who are not enrolled. We don’t get enough money for half of those that are below the poverty level,” Barbour said.
Another GCH worker expressed concern about the difficulty some people have qualifying for Medicaid or disability programs.
Barbour said that while Medicaid and disability are strictly federal programs, “We’re not getting as much federal funding as we used to. $900 million is what our state allocates for healthcare. But people fall through the cracks for disability.”
The Item asked Barbour about the need for the Pearl River County Utility Authority, and his opinion on why it was needed. The legislation requiring the utility authority was developed at his direction and passed by the Mississippi Legislature.
“In order for people to move inland to get away from the threat of damaging hurricanes, it was recognized that infrastructure was needed, such as water, sewer, and wastewater treatment. You can only allow a certain number of septic tanks in an area. Then you develop other environmental problems that are not acceptable by law and because of the harm they do to human life,” Barbour said. “We were allotted around $642 million of Community Development Block Grant funds to build infrastructure so people can build away from harm.”
Barbour said the federal government determined that there needed to be a regional authority in place to oversee the new infrastructure, and the state legislature deemed that one governing authority per county was needed.
“There are over a hundred utility districts in the lower six counties. I think each district worried about the loss of their authority and rate setting when we started this, but those problems are working themselves out,” Barbour said.
Barbour said he understood that the cost to individuals was increased at first.
“It does increase cost some. But federal clean water and safe water laws require sewage treatment at a certain density. You can’t build without water. We’re trying to find ways to help the county utility districts bear administrative fees through federal funding rather than local funds, and I’m comfortable that we will be successful with that,” Barbour said.