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MediTATE on This: Reeves “Spent Millions in Tax Dollars on Governor’s Mansion Upgrades” Including Lemon Trees, Meditation Garden

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MediTATE on This: Reeves “Spent Millions in Tax Dollars on Governor’s Mansion Upgrades” Including Lemon Trees, Meditation Garden

A new Daily Beast investigation reveals that Mississippi governor Tate Reeves “has spent millions updating the governor’s mansion in Mississippi—including tens of thousands on lemon trees and a meditation garden.”

Reeves, who has not paid property taxes since selling his family’s home upon moving into the governor’s mansion in 2020, has spent more than $3.3 million on improvements to the mansion — more than $2.4 million of which came directly from taxpayer funds.

In addition to tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars spent on things like “an architectural feature specifically designed for lemon trees,” Reeves also used public funds to spend heavily on landscaping, upgrades to the irrigation and lighting systems he had previously installed on Mississippians’ dime, dumbwaiter repairs, and “renovations to the old media room” as part of  “$120,000 in state funds to renovate the mansion’s family living quarters.”

“Gov. Reeves’ abuse of public funds is more than just a juicy story and the governor should spend some time meditating on why he thought it acceptable to betray the public ci-trust and use millions of taxpayer dollars to ade in frivolous home improvement projects while avoiding paying property taxes himself,” said DGA spokesperson Izzi Levy. “As long Tainted Tate Reeves continues to put his lavish lifestyle and the interests of his well-heeled friends ahead of Mississippians, no amount of renovations will be able to cover up the corruption in Mississippi’s governor’s mansion.”

Read more about Tate Reeves’ multimillion-dollar taxpayer funded home improvement projects:

  • After Republican Tate Reeves was elected governor of Mississippi in 2019, he sold his home and moved his family, naturally, into the governor’s mansion.
  • But that new home, a national historic landmark, was far from perfect for Reeves. And over the last three and a half years, while not having to pay personal property taxes on his new state-owned mansion, Reeves plowed more than $2.4 million in taxpayer dollars into renovations and upkeep for his temporary home, according to public records obtained by The Daily Beast.
  • Since Reeves moved in, state records show taxpayers have footed the bill for more than $100,000 in family living space renovations—as well as $20,000 in garden work on the governor’s mansion. While those costs, like the other tax-backed expenses, are broadly captured in data available through the Transparency MS government website, the scope of information obtained by The Daily Beast in response to open records requests reveals far more detail.
  • The records show tax money spent on luxuries like a “meditation garden” and the mansion’s limonaia—an architectural feature specifically designed for lemon trees. A Facebook photo shows Reeves and his wife cutting the ribbon at the governor’s mansion’s limonaia in April 2022. The next month, the administration spent around $1,500 on consultations and sketches related to a “Meditation Garden plan,” in addition to a total of $20,000 on landscape architecture consulting in 2021 and 2022, state records show.
  • The limonaia then saw $1,950 in irrigation system upgrades in September 2022, with another $250 drip irrigation system added this March at the request of Ann Beard, chief of staff to first lady Elee Reeves. The meditation garden also got automatic irrigation and new lighting this March, at costs of $2,950 and $1,640, respectively.
  • The living area updates also mention asbestos, a carcinogen formerly used in insulation. One $49,480 expense item includes “the removal of all asbestos flooring” in the living quarters, among a litany of other highly detailed improvements. Another $11,865 item reveals costs to “correct elevator code violations” and repair the mansion’s dumbwaiter.
  • But while some of Reeves’ improvements—such as the asbestos mitigation—appear urgent or even past due, not all of the $2.4 million in taxpayer costs fit that description.
  • Reeves appears to have used about $120,000 in state funds to renovate the mansion’s family living quarters, across three projects, state records show. Those projects included steps “To allow for accommodations for a larger family” (the Reeves have three kids; his predecessor and fellow Republican Phil Bryant had two adult children), “renovations to the old media room,” “closets,” and installing bookshelves and carpeting.
  • While it’s true that the mansion has undergone recent repairs, public reports suggest that Reeves’ immediate predecessors don’t appear to come close to his first-term spending levels.