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JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Vicki Slater, one of the Democrats running for Mississippi governor, said Tuesday that she wants to do two things Republican Gov. Phil Bryant has not done: fully fund a state education budget formula and expand Medicaid as allowed by a federal health law.
"Phil Bryant has failed by not fully funding our schools. He has failed by turning away access to health insurance for working Mississippians," Slater said during a news conference outside the Capitol.
Bryant has said the budget he signed for the year that begins July 1 puts a record amount of money into public schools. However, critics point out that a school budget formula, the Mississippi Adequate Education Program, is underfunded by $201 million. The formula was put into law in 1997 and has been fully funded only two years. It is designed to give schools enough money to meet midlevel academic standards.
Bryant has said repeatedly that he opposes expanding Medicaid because he doesn't trust the federal government to fulfill its promise to pay its portion of the cost. He says the state would have to either increase taxes or cut other services to put more money into Medicaid.
During Slater's news conference, she was endorsed by two union leaders, three Jackson-area pastors, one Democratic former lawmaker and seven current Democratic lawmakers, including the party's leader in the House, Rep. Bobby Moak of Bogue Chitto.
Slater is an attorney from Madison. She faces Dr. Valerie Short of Ridgeland and Robert Gray of Jackson in the Aug. 4 Democratic primary.
Campaign finance reports show Slater has raised $104,419 this year and had $62,508 on hand through April 30. Short's report wasn't available by Tuesday. Gray's report shows his campaign has raised no money.
Bryant, who previously served as state auditor and lieutenant governor, is seeking his second term as governor. His report shows he has raised $485,635 this year and has $2.6 million on hand. His Republican primary challenger, Mitch Young of Lamar County, reported $100 cash on hand.
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