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Thread: 'Governor' Jay Nixon's State of the State of Missouri Address

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    May 2009

    Default 'Governor' Jay Nixon's State of the State of Missouri Address

    'Governor' Jay Nixon's State of the State of Missouri Address




    Thank you, President Pro Tem Dempsey, Speaker Jones, judges of the Missouri Supreme Court, Lieutenant Governor Kinder, state officials, members of the legislature, members of my cabinet, and my fellow Missourians.

    This evening it is my pleasure to be joined by Missouri's outstanding First Lady, Georganne Nixon, and our son Jeremiah.

    Before I begin to lay out our state's agenda for the year, I would like to thank the people of Missouri for the privilege of serving a second term as Governor. I am grateful for your continued trust and support, and the opportunity to lead our great state forward.

    Looking around this chamber tonight, I see folks with different backgrounds, different ideologies, and different interests.

    But whatever our small differences may be, we are united in a common purpose: to serve all the people of Missouri... to make their lives better... and to make life better for our children and grandchildren.

    These past four years, Missouri has weathered historic challenges - from nearly double-digit unemployment to the tornado in Joplin.

    But together, we met each challenge with courage and conviction, and moved our state forward.

    That makes me proud to be a Missourian.

    That makes me more optimistic than ever about our future.

    Because the people of the Show-Me State know how to work together. And once our minds are made up, nothing can stop us.

    That's who we are. That's what we do.

    Some who answer the call of service put their lives at risk to protect the lives of others.

    They serve here at home whenever danger and disaster threaten. They serve in perilous outposts in every corner of the globe, to defend our freedom and liberty.

    We call them heroes. They make us proud.

    Last December, I again had the opportunity to visit our troops in Afghanistan and Kuwait.

    One of them is with us tonight.

    Sergeant Joseph Schicker served with the Guard's Agribusiness Development Team in Afghanistan. Just hours after his team arrived at their base, Taliban insurgents attacked.

    In successfully repelling the attack, several Missouri Guardsmen, including Sergeant Schicker, were wounded. For his part in the battle, Sergeant Schicker received the Combat Infantry Badge and the Army Commendation Medal with Valor.

    I personally had the honor of pinning Sergeant Schicker with the Purple Heart during the ADT's welcome home ceremony in September.

    Sergeant Schicker, you represent every man and every woman who has ever fought to defend our great nation, in every era and on every field of battle.
    Will you please stand, with all the members of our military past and present, and accept the heartfelt gratitude of your state?

    In the last four years, we've overcome our share of challenges.

    Missouri was hit by unprecedented natural disasters.

    We came together to help our neighbors hit hard by twisters and ice storms, floods and drought.

    In the grip of an historic recession, we did what every family in Missouri did: we tightened our belts and cut spending.

    Together, we balanced the budget while holding the line on taxes.

    We dramatically reduced the size of state government, while making it more efficient.

    We protected our spotless Triple-A credit rating. And unlike most states, we did it without reaching into taxpayers' wallets, or putting it on the credit card.
    And you know what? It worked.

    And as a result, our economy is moving forward.

    Last year, Missouri employers added more than 40,000 new jobs.

    We're exporting more goods than ever before . . . training more workers than ever before . . .

    and bringing Missouri's auto industry back to life.

    Two weeks ago - on the day after my inauguration - I went back to Detroit to meet with auto suppliers and manufacturers.

    We got our first good look at the Ford Transit, one of the fantastic new vehicles we're going to build right here in the Show-Me State.

    A top Ford exec said that if we hadn't come together during that special session two years ago, the Claycomo plant would have closed. That would have put those 4,000 workers out of a job, and pushed Missouri's auto industry to the brink.


    Automakers are investing more than $1.5 billion in Missouri, creating thousands of jobs at the Ford plant in Claycomo, the GM plant in Wentzville, and suppliers in every corner of our state. By coming together in that special session, we saved Missouri's auto industry.

    So when the skeptics say that nothing gets done in this building, or when the press writes that the two parties can't come together, think of those workers and their families. And remember that what we do here really matters.
    And that same spirit is needed now more than ever, to keep Missouri moving forward.

    Together, we've kept our fiscal discipline, and our economy is gaining ground.
    We now have a unique opportunity to build a better future for our children. We must seize it.

    And nothing will have a greater impact on our children's future than the commitment we make now to their education.

    So in my budget, we increase funding for education. And we increase it by $150 million.
    That's $17 million more for early childhood education.

    That's $34 million more for higher education;

    And that's $100 million more for our K-12 classrooms.

    Our children are our first priority. They are Missouri's future.

    Of course, with increased funding, come higher expectations. We expect better test scores, better graduation rates, more college degrees and more Missourians ready to compete for the best jobs in a global economy.
    We've all got to do better, and that means everybody: students and teachers; parents and principals; coaches and college presidents. Increased funding means increased accountability.

    We know the early years of a child's life are critical. Over the past few weeks I've visited preschool classrooms in Greenville, Nixa, Parkway and St. Joseph - local communities committed to giving their kids a strong foundation for lifelong learning.

    And the first official business of my second term was to meet with leaders in preschool education. We discussed ways to ensure that every young child comes to school ready to learn, and ready to succeed.

    The clear consensus: early childhood education is a smart investment, with a big return.

    We want every child, in every Missouri community - no matter their family's circumstances - to get the best possible start.

    That is why, with an increase of $17 million, we'll more than double funding for our Missouri Preschool Program, and put more money into programs like Early Head Start.

    Tonight, we are fortunate to be joined by the St. Louis Pre-School Teacher of the Year, Linda Smith, of Dewey International School. Joining her is St. Louis Public Schools Superintendent, Dr. Kelvin Adams.

    Under Dr. Adams' strong leadership, the St. Louis schools have made steady progress over the past five years, as they work to earn full accreditation. That kind of progress is only possible when everyone pulls together toward a shared goal.

    Mrs. Smith and Dr. Adams, please stand. Thank you for the lifelong commitment you've made to our children.

    In the past four years, our schools have made steady gains.
    Math scores are up. Reading scores are up.

    And I'm proud to report that Missouri's high school graduation rate is now the seventh-highest in the nation.

    But we must commit to even higher goals.

    That's why my budget includes $100 million in new funding for our K-12 classrooms.

    We'll use it to train more teachers, modernize equipment, and lengthen the school year.

    Right now, Missouri has the fourth-shortest school year in the nation. Adding six more days to the next school year will give teachers more time to work with their students, and give kids more time to learn.

    But we won't stop at K-12. This year, we'll help even more Missouri families afford college. That's been a top priority of mine since Day One.

    On my watch, we led the nation in holding down the cost of tuition. But the cost of college is still out of reach for too many Missouri families. And too many students who do attend college graduate with crushing debt.

    That's why my budget includes more than $75 million for our Access and Bright Flight scholarships. And it increases funding for our A+ scholarships, which cover tuition and fees at all our public community colleges.

    To qualify for an A+ scholarship, high school students must keep their grades up, have excellent attendance, and stay out of trouble.

    Since I've been Governor, we've expanded the A+ program to 150 more schools. But there are still schools that aren't part of the A+ program, so their students can't even apply for A+ scholarships.

    That's unfair to these kids, and we're going to fix it. This is the year we will expand our A+ scholarship program to every public high school in the state, so that every qualified student in this state has the opportunity to go to community college - tuition free.

    The dream of a college education should be within reach for all Missouri families. Because education is the best economic development tool there is.

    While our colleges and universities are doing a great job, and graduating more students than ever before, we're also holding these schools to higher standards than ever before.

    Two years ago, I convened a summit to lay out my agenda for higher education. I challenged the leaders of all our public two- and four-year institutions to develop a new funding model - based on performance. And that's what we did.

    My budget includes an increase of $34 million for higher education. But instead of funding schools based merely on what they've received in the past, we'll tie new funding to specific performance goals - like increased student retention, higher graduation rates and improved learning.

    We will achieve higher academic goals - with greater accountability.

    Now, we've made it our mission to help more high school students graduate, go to college, complete their degrees and enter the workforce.

    That's the traditional path. And I'm glad more students are taking it. But there are nearly 750,000 Missourians who started college but never completed their degrees. They left school, got jobs, started families, moved on with their lives.

    At this point, some of these folks may feel that going back to college is too expensive, or too hard to juggle with work and raising kids.

    I want to change that and help these adult students finish the degrees they started years ago, so they can get better jobs and meet their full earning potential.

    This year, we'll do more to help these adult students finish their degrees online, from an accredited university that's putting down new roots in Missouri. Let me tell you about its history.

    In 1995, 19 governors came together to provide a realistic option to help adult students complete their degrees at an affordable price. They founded Western Governors University, a nonprofit institution that offers bachelors and masters degrees in four areas Missouri's employers are looking for: business, health care, teacher preparation and information technology.

    It's designed to meet the needs of real people with real lives. You can take your tests after work, on weekends or at night, after the kids are asleep. Instead of paying tuition by the credit hour, students can take as much coursework as they want for a flat rate. And how quickly you earn your degree depends on how quickly you master the subject matter: you advance at your own pace.

    The point is that with today's technology, we can make it easier than ever for folks to finish their degrees without disrupting their lives, and help them move up the economic ladder.

    In the past three years, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, and the states of Texas and Washington have established WGU in their states. And starting this year, we will begin enrolling students at WGU-Missouri.

    We'll be helping Missourians who never finished college, who are underemployed and who need degrees to move up, reach their full potential. Now that's a mission we can all get behind.

    Throughout state government, we've applied business principles to make the most efficient use of taxpayer dollars. Cutting waste. Doing more with less. Making better use of technology.

    And as a result, the state workforce is now the smallest it has been in 19 years. From the time I became Governor to the end of Fiscal Year 2014, we will have reduced the size of state government by 4,500 positions, and cut $1.8 billion in state spending.

    We've sharply cut energy use, sold off surplus property and reduced leased space.

    We've put more state services online - from license plates to child support.
    And in addition to applying business principles to make state government more efficient, we must use those same principles to make government more business friendly.

    Now, Missouri's already rated one of the Top-Ten best states to do business, because of things like our low tax rates, low workers comp rates, low energy costs and strong workforce. But talk to small business owners and they'll tell you: there's still too much red tape. Too many bureaucratic hurdles. We hear those concerns, and we're doing something about it.

    First, we need to streamline Missouri's economic incentive programs - and there are a lot of them - so that they're easier to use and understand.

    Second, we need to simplify our convoluted environmental permitting process. Currently, business owners have to go to as many as six commissions at the Department of Natural Resources to get permits. And that's before they turn the first shovel of dirt. We need to consolidate those commissions into one, to help businesses grow and create jobs.

    And while we're at it, I propose that we eliminate another ten commissions at DNR that are redundant and unnecessary. We can take common-sense steps to cut red tape for businesses - without backing off our commitment to protecting our air, land and water.

    We also must address the Second Injury Fund.

    This year, let's work together and solve this issue for the benefit of Missouri workers and employers.

    In a highly competitive global economy, employers need access to a highly skilled, well-trained workforce. That's why I've made it a top priority to give Missouri workers the skills they need to compete for the jobs of tomorrow.
    Since I've been in office, we've dramatically increased our investment in worker training, helping 150,000 Missouri workers sharpen their skills and get better jobs in their field. So once again, my budget increases funding for workforce training that's custom-tailored to the needs of Missouri employers.
    Investing in Missouri workers' skills - that's real economic development. But job training doesn't just happen in the classroom or on the work site. Some of Missouri's best workers got their training serving us in the armed forces.
    Helping our veterans get work when they come home is not only honorable and patriotic, it's good for Missouri businesses. If you're looking for an employee who shows up early, stays late, works hard all day and knows how to overcome adversity - hire a veteran.

    In 2010, we launched Show-Me Heroes. We've asked every employer in the state to reach out, recruit and interview veterans first for new job openings.
    I'd like to thank all the legislators in this room who helped us strengthen this program by adding job training, so our veterans can re-enter the civilian workforce quickly and be even more successful on the job.

    More than 2,700 employers have signed the Show-Me Heroes pledge, putting more than 4,000 of our proud Missouri veterans to work.

    And tonight, again, I call on every Missouri business to go to our website - MO.gov - and take the Show-Me Heroes pledge.

    Because it's not enough to honor and support our service members abroad. We must honor and support them at home, with jobs that are worthy of their skills and work ethic.

    For the third straight year, I am proud to report that we are shipping more Missouri goods around the world than ever before.

    Missouri exports hit record levels in 2010, and topped the $14 billion mark with double-digit growth in 2011. And we're on track to break records again. That's because we're taking a pro-active approach.

    In October of 2011, I led a group of Missouri business leaders on a highly successful trade mission to China. We secured agreements to sell $4.6 billion in Missouri goods.

    In April of 2012, we went to Brazil, and signed our first-ever trade agreement with the state of Sao Paulo, the financial capital of one of the world's fastest-growing economies. And this coming March, I will lead a trade mission to South Korea and Taiwan.

    We're making this a priority because it's critical for every business in the state - no matter how small - to think globally. Because companies that once only did business with customers around the corner are finding new customers around the world. And when we sell more Missouri products overseas, we're creating more jobs here at home.

    That's why my budget includes $2.3 million to enter new markets, expand foreign trade, and help Missouri businesses develop a world-wide customer base.

    One of our export superstars comes from one of Missouri's oldest family-owned businesses, Volpi Foods in St. Louis. Next time you are in St. Louis, stop by their shop on The Hill.

    Volpi is a prime example of a traditional business that with visionary new leadership has broken the mold. With the help of our departments of Agriculture and Economic Development, Volpi has doubled its exports in growing markets like Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Costa Rica.
    Please welcome the CEO of Volpi Foods, Lorenza Pasetti.

    There's no doubt that Missouri is ready to meet the challenges of a global economy.

    But quite frankly, the biggest economic decision facing our state right now is how to move forward on health care.

    This isn't the time to re-open the debate or reargue the merits of the President's health care plan. I had some problems with it, and I know many of you did as well. But Congress passed it - the President signed it - and the Supreme Court upheld it.

    It's the law of the land. And it's not within our power to rewrite federal laws, even if we wanted to.

    It is within our power - it's our responsibility - to now do what's right for Missouri.

    And the question before us is a narrow one. Will we bring the tax-dollars that Missourians send to Washington back home to strengthen our Medicaid system here in Missouri?

    Or will we let the tax dollars that Missourians send to Washington be spent in other states instead? Other states would get the benefits, and we'd get the bill.

    The answer is clear: the people of Missouri deserve to see their tax-dollars come back to their communities.

    Friends, let's put the politics of health care aside for just a moment and look at this as a business decision for the state of Missouri.

    The Missouri Chamber of Commerce supports the Medicaid expansion - not because they're big supporters of this President and his agenda - but because it's the smart thing to do. They know that bringing billions of dollars back to Missouri is good for our state's economy.

    The Kansas City Chamber of Commerce has endorsed the Medicaid expansion. So have the chambers in Independence, Springfield, Lee's Summit and St. Louis. So have the Civic Council of Greater Kansas City, Kirksville REDI, and our friends at the Associated Industries of Missouri.

    Would the leaders from these business organizations who have joined us tonight because of the importance of this issue please stand? Thank you for your leadership on this critical issue.

    For these business leaders, this is not a political decision. It's an economic one. And we shouldn't let last year's politics get in the way of next year's economic growth.

    Moving forward with this plan will bring a total of $5.7 billion to Missouri for the first three calendar years - at no additional cost to the state.

    The University of Missouri estimates this will generate an additional 24,000 jobs - and that's just in 2014. We're talking about good jobs - for nurses, doctors, pharmacists, therapists and medical technicians.

    Strengthening Medicaid will strengthen our economy. Without question, it's the smart thing to do.

    Now I know there are some who have voiced concern that Washington will not live up to its commitment. Let me address that directly: I support including a provision that rolls back the Medicaid expansion if Washington doesn't honor its financial commitment.

    If Washington drops the ball, we'll do what's right for Missouri. We'll always do what's right for Missouri.

    And there's a human element to this that can't be ignored.

    A stronger Medicaid system will make health care available to 300,000 of our friends and neighbors.

    Let's be clear about who these people are. They're working Missourians - folks who work day and night, but simply can't afford health coverage.
    These are not people who aren't trying, or hoping to game the system. They're folks we see every day - some holding down two jobs just to make ends meet.

    We're talking about a family of four, with a household income of roughly $32,000 a year. They wait tables and clean office buildings. They cut hair and trim trees. They work in factories, and repair cars and trucks.

    Making it easier for these hardworking Missourians to get basic health insurance is the right thing to do. And because these folks can't afford doctors' bills or insurance, they often end up in our hospital emergency rooms, because it's the only option for their family. In their shoes, you'd probably do the same thing.

    It's a terrible way to deliver health care. It drives up premiums for people who do have health insurance. That must change.

    I'm well aware this is a tough issue politically. But across the country, we're seeing Governors and state legislators put politics aside to do what's undeniably best for their states.

    Republican Governors in places like Arizona, North Dakota, New Mexico and Nevada are using federal funds to strengthen their Medicaid systems. Not because it's the easy thing for them to do politically, but because it's the right thing to do.

    Here in Missouri, we must make the smart business decision. The right human decision. And bring the tax dollars we send to Washington back to work here in Missouri.

    On another health care front, in recent years we have seen the tragic consequences when people with serious mental illness don't get the help they need.

    Right now, many people with severe mental illness only get treatment when they reach a crisis point. That's too late.

    My budget includes $10 million to help those with mental illness get timely, effective treatment in their own communities. That money will be used to:
    Provide more services in our community mental health centers;
    Increase mental health first-aid training for professionals so they can recognize the early warning signs of mental illness.

    Train law enforcement in mental health crisis-intervention;

    And teach families how to care for loved ones who suffer from severe mental illness.

    We must do everything in our power to get folks the treatment they need, before it's too late.

    Each day in our state and across the country, tragedies occur that don't make headlines, and often don't get reported at all. I am talking about domestic violence.

    Last year, our network of shelters for victims of domestic violence provided safe haven for thousands of women and children. But thousands of others were turned away because the shelters were full.

    We know that battered women are at greatest risk when they make the courageous decision to leave an abusive partner. Finding shelter can literally make the difference between life and death for these women and for their children.

    That is why my budget includes a 29 percent increase in funds to provide more beds, more treatment, more safety at domestic violence shelters throughout our state. No child - no mother - who has been the victim of domestic violence should ever be turned away and left to fend for themselves during these moments of crisis.

    These past four years, we have opened new doors for thousands of Missourians with disabilities.

    I'm passionate about this work, as I know many of you in this room are as well. Together, we passed landmark legislation in 2010 to ensure that children with autism get the medical care they need.

    Issues like this transcend politics. And now thousands of youngsters are getting the therapy that, just a couple years ago, their families couldn't afford. We will keep moving forward by funding training for more therapists to help even more children with autism lead happier, healthier lives.

    In October of 2010, we started the Partnership for Hope. And it's already helped thousands of people with developmental disabilities live fuller lives. My budget includes funds to expand this vital program to 1,000 more Missourians, some of whom have spent years waiting for services.

    By the end of 2014, we'll be serving more than 3,500 people with developmental disabilities.

    Missourians like Vishal Patel. Vishal is 23. He has a rare form of cerebral palsy, and gets around in a motorized wheelchair.

    For years Vishal had to crawl, or have his parents carry him upstairs in their home, to take a shower. The Partnership for Hope provided Vishal with a stair lift, a roll-in shower, a permanent ramp and the physical therapy he needs.
    But as he told me in a letter, his real dream was to get a real job - with a real paycheck.

    The Partnership arranged for him to volunteer every Friday at a movie theater in St. Peters. And Vishal did so well, that just before Christmas they offered him that real job, with a real paycheck. His first day was January 4th.
    Vishal represents the many Missourians with disabilities who are now entering the workforce, thanks to the Partnership for Hope and the enlightened business owners who recognize the value of these outstanding workers.
    Vishal is here tonight with his job coach, Pam Westhoff, and Peg Capo, who runs the program in St. Charles County. Please welcome the newest member of Missouri's workforce, Vishal Patel.

    At the start of my speech, I spoke about unique opportunities, and the importance of seizing them.

    With our perfect Triple-A credit rating intact and interest rates at all-time lows, we now have a unique opportunity to move forward with a bond issuance.

    It would allow us to modernize our K-12 classrooms and college research labs, mental hospitals and state parks. Some of our state's most important buildings need long-overdue improvements, including this one.

    Interest rates today are about half of what they were in 1995 when Governor Carnahan issued bonds, and about a third of what they were when Governor Bond did the same in 1983, when interest rates were more than 8 percent.
    But the bond issue must be focused on our state's most pressing needs. And we must have a way to pay for it.

    When we talk about our state's long-term needs, nothing is more important than our schools.

    A bond issuance will allow the state to establish a permanent, low-interest loan fund dedicated to improving our local schools.

    Which is why I am proposing the creation of the BOOST Fund. BOOST stands for Building Opportunities in Our Schools Today.

    Because, folks, let's not kid ourselves. If we want our children to get a first-rate education and compete in a 21st Century global economy, they'll need first-rate, 21st Century facilities: state-of- the art computers and science labs, libraries and wired classrooms. The BOOST Fund will go to work in your communities, in schools in every corner of Missouri.

    In addition, a targeted bond issuance will provide funds for cutting-edge university research facilities in areas critical to our competitiveness, such as engineering, math, and science.

    Bond proceeds will also allow us to build a new and improved Fulton State Mental Hospital. We have a moral responsibility to these patients and their caregivers to provide the best possible environment: one that is safe, secure and conducive to healing.

    Bonds will also pay to upgrade accommodations in our state parks. It's an investment that will have a big impact on tourism.

    And tourism is big business in Missouri. Last year, Missouri welcomed 36 million visitors, pumping nearly $11 billion into our state's economy. But we can do even better.

    Updating our cabins and lodges, and building brand-new, top-of-the-line facilities at our most popular parks will create jobs, help our economy, and make our parks an even bigger draw. Our 87 state parks and historic sites are a priceless legacy that belongs to all of us. Hunting, fishing, hiking and camping are part of our Missouri way of life.

    Investing in Missouri's state parks today will help preserve our outdoor heritage for our grandchildren, and their grandchildren.

    As I said before, we can only move forward with a bond issuance if we have a way to pay for it.

    Saying "we'll figure it out later" won't work. That's not how we became a Triple-A state.

    The way to pay for the bond issuance is to finally get our tax credit system under control.

    We've worked on reining in tax credits for years. In 2010, I appointed a statewide, bipartisan, tax credit commission to study the issue.

    That commission tapped the expertise of Missouri leaders in business, education, labor and government. They recommended a series of pragmatic, fiscally responsible reforms to rein in tax credit expenditures and ensure these programs provide a strong return on taxpayers' investment.
    But two years later, these reforms have yet to pass, and the costs of inaction continue to grow.

    Last year tax credit redemptions grew to a staggering $629 million - one-twelfth of our entire general revenue budget. That's not fiscally responsible.
    This is the year to get comprehensive, fiscally responsible tax credit reform legislation to my desk, and get smart, strategic investments in our state moving forward.

    But all of the ideas and proposals I outlined tonight mean very little if the people of Missouri lose faith in the system.

    Missouri's ethics laws are among the weakest in the nation. Every year as Governor, I've put forward my agenda for ethics reform, and I know many of you have made genuine efforts to pass legislation.

    The list of reforms we must implement is long. Everything from curbing committee-to-committee transfers to banning office holders from doubling as paid political consultants to finally closing the revolving door between the legislature and lobbyists. All things we must do.

    But above all, the single most destructive force to our system is the unlimited sums of money pouring into the campaign accounts of candidates seeking public office.

    We must institute - we must re-institute - strict campaign contribution limits.
    Each time a wealthy individual or business or special interest sends a check for $20,000 or $50,000 or $100,000 to a candidate, the public's trust erodes a little bit more. And eventually, if we continue on this path, there will be no trust left at all.

    I've led the fight for campaign contribution limits for many years. As Attorney General, I stood before the U.S. Supreme Court and successfully argued in support of Missouri's contribution limits. And as Governor, I stood before you every year and made the case for them.

    This year, if the Legislature does not send a campaign contribution limit bill to my desk, I will do everything in my power to get it on the ballot and make sure it passes.

    The people of Missouri have voiced their opinion on this matter already at the ballot box and their support for contribution limits was overwhelming. We all know it would pass once again.

    Let's work together and get it done this session. The era of unlimited contributions to candidates must end.

    These past four years, we've been faced with some historic challenges.
    And by working together, we've tackled them head-on ...and made great strides in the Show-Me State.

    We've kept our fiscal discipline, balanced the budget and put strict cost controls in place throughout state government. And as a result, our economy is making solid, steady progress.

    The signs are everywhere. Businesses large and small are hiring again.
    Missouri's unemployment rate has been lower than the national average for 40 consecutive months.

    New building permits are up. Personal income is up, and wages are up.
    And now we are in a position to make smart, long-term investments that will boost our children's academic achievement, protect Missourians' health, strengthen our workforce, improve our quality of life and create prosperity for generations to come.

    We have unique opportunities before us. Now is the time to seize them.
    Just two weeks ago, I stood at the steps of this Capitol, and spoke of my vision for the future of our beloved state:
    A future where all our children get an education that prepares them to compete for the best jobs in the global economy;

    Where the brightest minds in science and technology advance the frontiers of human knowledge;

    Where business and the arts flourish;

    Where the bounty of Missouri's farms and fields will feed, clothe and power the planet;

    And where the natural beauty of our state is preserved and cherished for all time.
    That future is ours to build. And we can only do it by working together.
    When I first came to the Capitol in 1987, I was the youngest person in the Senate. I had a lot to learn. And I was fortunate to serve with many dedicated and capable legislators on both sides of the aisle. They showed me what public service is and what it requires of each of us.

    Republicans and Democrats didn't agree on everything back then, just like they don't now.

    We had a divided state government, with a Governor of one party, and the other party holding a large majority in the legislature - just like we do now.
    But we worked together to get things done for the good of the people.
    I've been in public service for a long time. More than a quarter of a century.
    And in those many years, my faith in the people of Missouri has never faltered. My faith in our bedrock values has never wavered.

    And I have always been mindful of, and inspired by, the words inscribed on the Great Seal of Missouri, on our flag and in these marble halls:
    "Let the Good of the People Be the Supreme Law.''

    This is our call to action, our common oath and rallying cry. This is our sworn duty.

    Ours is a sacred calling. Our time is short.

    Let every action we take in these halls and in the offices of government be guided by that supreme law: the good of the people.

    Now let us seek God's everlasting grace and protection to finish the good works He has entrusted to our care.

    God bless Missouri.

    And God bless the United States of America.

    Thank you.

    Last edited by Librarian; 01-28-2013 at 11:52 PM.
    I am The Librarian

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2009

    Default Republican Response to Nixon's State of the State of Missouri Address

    Republican Response to Nixon's State of the State of Missouri Address




    The following address was delivered by Speaker of the House Tim Jones, R-Eureka, in response to Gov. Jay Nixon's State of the State message:

    Good evening. Thank you for joining me.

    I am Tim Jones, Speaker of your Missouri House, and it is an honor to speak with you tonight.

    Last November, the people of Missouri sent record numbers of Republicans to Jefferson City to govern and to advance an ambitious policy agenda, an agenda focused on strengthening our state’s economy, reforming our education system, and creating opportunity for all Missourians.

    Missourians also gave their support to Governor Nixon, a self-proclaimed independent, fiscal conservative who has proudly reaffirmed his intention to work with Republicans to keep tax burdens low, government small, and the bureaucratic red tape to a minimum.

    It was a governor our state rarely saw during his first term in office, but after seeing his newfound approach to governance, I am cautiously optimistic about working with him in the years ahead.

    Moments ago, you heard the governor outline HIS priorities for the upcoming year.

    While some of the common ground with Republicans he discussed on the campaign trail is still there, many of his new proposals, ones that would create a bigger, more intrusive government bureaucracy threaten to create a chasm that no amount of bipartisanship can bridge.

    And in the past, as in tonight, the Governor has articulated grand concepts but provided little detail.

    Many in the legislature, on both sides of the aisle, are concerned about the governor’s pattern of retreating behind rhetoric instead of leading and engaging with us to find solutions.

    So I challenge the governor, for the good of all Missourians, to break from his past pattern of ivory tower executive isolation, roll up his sleeves and work with us to find common ground.

    I welcome his participation.

    In the months ahead, Republican leadership in the House and Senate will work with the governor on the issues the people of Missouri entrusted us to address when they elected us to office.

    We have profound differences but we will focus on the places where we may find agreement.

    Areas like the critical task of improving our state’s aging and failing infrastructure.

    We must work together to make sure our roads and bridges, the essential transportation routes vital to economic development, are maintained, repaired and, when necessary, rebuilt.

    We also believe it is important to review the effectiveness of our existing state programs, including Missouri’s 61 tax credit programs.

    Many of these programs accomplish a worthwhile goal, but oversight and accountability are required.

    We will eliminate the credits that do not work, cap programs at a reasonable level to provide budget certainty, and ensure that taxpayers are protected.

    And if the Governor’s leadership is absent, as it has been many times over the past four years, or when the proposals he pushes are radically different from the campaign promises he made, we will not hesitate to use our historic majorities that the people entrusted us with to pursue our agenda to reform and transform our state.

    A prime example is the governor’s call to expand the welfare state by adding 300,000 Missourians to the Medicaid roles.

    It’s a call that has come courtesy of Obamacare and Washington, D.C. It’s a call the Republican-led legislature will not answer.

    Eight years ago, Republican leadership made the difficult but desperately needed decision to reign in a welfare system that was growing at an unsustainable rate.

    It was a decision that saved the state billions of dollars and staved off almost certain bankruptcy.

    Today we are faced with a similar decision.

    On one side we have a governor and a federal government that believes bigger government is the answer.

    They want to take us down a fiscally irresponsible path that will saddle future generations of Missourians with a bill they cannot afford.

    It’s a path Republicans will not follow.

    Why should we pour billions of dollars of your hard-earned tax money into a broken system? That would defy basic economic sense.

    We will not follow the lead of out-of-touch bureaucrats whose reckless spending has pushed our nation to the brink of financial disaster.

    Instead, Republican leadership will propose a plan to transform our Medicaid system, to repair a broken system so that it works as intended by providing quality care to the neediest Missourians.

    Republicans have always stood for providing opportunity to those who are truly in need. And that is where your hard earned tax dollars should be spent.

    Our commitment is to stay true to the will of the people who have consistently voted with large majorities against the economy-crippling provisions of Obamacare, to find ways to keep the size of government small and to steer our state away from the same kind of fiscal cliff our federal government cannot seem to avoid.

    We also call on Governor Nixon to stand in support of the many Missouri hospitals that provide care to the un- and underinsured.

    The federal government’s decision to cut the dish payments that reimburse hospitals for the care they offer is one that we must oppose together.

    This ploy by the White House to force the hands of states like ours to expand Medicaid must be rejected, and we must develop a Missouri solution that will allow hospitals to continue to provide care, one that doesn’t require a massive expansion of government that Missouri taxpayers simply cannot afford.

    Instead of adding more bloat to the bureaucracy, our efforts this year must focus on strengthening Missouri’s economy, a goal that requires both short-term and long-term solutions.

    In the short-term, we can improve our business climate and attract new employers and new jobs by making Missouri’s employment law standards comparable to national standards.

    Over the past several years, Missouri’s courts have made misguided rulings that have created uncertainty in our legal environment.

    The result is that compliance is now more difficult for existing employers, and potential businesses are discouraged from setting up shop in a state where frivolous lawsuits are far too common.

    It is time to put Missouri employers on a level playing field with their competitors around the country, to provide certainty in the legal system that allows businesses to focus on growing their businesses, creating jobs rather than worrying about unnecessary lawsuits.

    We also must work to protect one of our largest employers in Missouri - the health care industry.

    It is critical that we correct a misguided court decision that opens the door for endless lawsuits with unlimited damages, a decision that will drive doctors out of the state, destroy jobs and reduce Missourians’ access to care.

    One of our top priorities for this legislative session will be to reform our medical malpractice system so we can close the floodgate of lawsuits that threaten to drive the cost of medical malpractice insurance through the roof and, of course, increase the cost of care.

    Last year, Kansas enacted sweeping tax reforms that made their state extremely attractive to business and upheld their medical malpractice protections for their health care industry.

    These are the latest shots in what has been a prolonged — and very successful — effort to poach Missouri companies and Missouri jobs — the ongoing economic “border war.”

    And if we do not respond to these very real threats, the war could turn into a rout.

    So we must immediately review our tax code and enact fiscally-responsible policies that ensure we remain competitive with our neighboring states.

    We must also begin to take steps to secure our future.

    We must protect our state’s education funding and give parents, teachers, and school boards the tools they need to ensure the Missourians of today are prepared for the jobs of tomorrow

    It would be shortsighted and irresponsible for Missouri’s leaders to place the temporary benefits of entitlement funding ahead of lasting benefits of education, yet that is exactly what Governor Nixon has done over the past several years.

    With each speech he has made, the governor has promised the people of Missouri that he will put education first.

    But as his rhetoric has been replaced with reality, Missourians have seen just how empty his promises are.

    Each year it has been the legislature that has shown real leadership on the vital issue of education.

    In each of the last three years, we’ve sent the governor budgets that placed an emphasis on funding both K-12 and higher education.

    Each year, he has responded by withholding millions of dollars from our schools.

    It was last year the governor asked us to take our funding for K-12 education to record levels, which we did.

    At the same time, he asked that funding once again be cut for higher education.

    The legislature, despite an incredibly difficult budget, made a commitment to not only provide record levels of funding to our elementary and secondary education system, but also to reverse the $106 million cut the governor had proposed for our colleges and universities.

    And how did the governor respond to our decision?

    By withholding more than $9 million, effectively cutting higher education funding for a third straight year.

    And yet, despite his claims that these cuts had to be made to balance the budget, he was able to find nearly $6 million of your tax money to buy a brand new plane.

    Pledging your commitment to our children and then failing to support them flies in the face of good governance and leadership.

    Missouri children, our future leaders, deserve more.

    When it comes to leadership on the issue of education, Governor Nixon has been absent and actively worked against the legislature’s efforts to invest in what he claims is his top priority.

    What’s worse, this has happened at a time when Missouri’s two largest school districts are failing, as our universities are struggling to find ways to prepare our young people for the jobs of the future.

    Our children, whether they are born in Springfield, St Louis or Sedalia, Kansas City, Camdenton or Cape, Poplar Bluff, Palmyra or anywhere in between, deserve access to the highest quality education.

    But our schools will not be able to provide this level of education if their funding is consistently slashed to the bone to fund an ever-increasing, bloated entitlement system full of waste, fraud and abuse.

    Our antiquated, overly bureaucratic system is the antithesis of innovation and excellence.

    Teachers should be rewarded for their performance and encouraged to boldly engage in the technological innovation that will create the highly-skilled workforce of tomorrow that we so desperately need.

    Finally, we must work to ensure that parents are provided the opportunity to be involved in their children’s education.

    Education cannot just begin and end at the schoolhouse door.

    It must continue at home, and parents should take an active role in ensuring their children are learning what they need to succeed.

    This can be accomplished by providing parents more power to intervene in failing school districts and force the necessary changes to ensure access to an effective education.

    This year we also must work to improve and better fund our system of mental health.

    Families across Missouri and across our great nation continue to mourn the loss of the young people at Sandy Hook Elementary who were so tragically taken from us, our thoughts and prayers continue to be with those families who suffered through this difficult time, but the solution to prevent such tragedies from happening again in the future does not involve trampling on the Second Amendment rights of our citizens.

    Instead, we must place an emphasis on creating a mental health system that makes care accessible and effective, so that those who might do us harm have the opportunity to receive the kind of help that can put them on a path to triumph rather than tragedy.

    You can count on Republicans to develop policy solutions that will protect your children — but also protect your rights as Americans.

    You sent us to Jefferson City for results, and Republicans in the General Assembly are committed to leading a government worthy of the citizens it serves.

    Whether it is education innovation or labor reform, saving our healthcare industry or balancing our budget with fairness and equity, the truth has no agenda and the challenges before us shall require bold leadership and transformational ideas.

    And if our governor is not up to the demands these times require, your General Assembly is prepared to provide the leadership that is so desperately needed.

    While our counterparts in DC may believe that government has all the answers and that bigger government is better, here in Missouri we believe that government is not the ruler of the people, it is the people who should rule over their government. Only then will all the people find the freedom and opportunity that will lead them to prosperity.

    In the coming months, I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Senate, and I hope to work successfully with Governor Nixon, to achieve the vision I have outlined this evening — restoring our infrastructure, strengthening our education system, and creating a job-friendly pro-growth business environment.

    Together, we can achieve these goals, and create a better future, full of opportunity for all Missourians.

    A place where future generations work, raise their families, and are proud to call home.

    Thank you for listening this evening.

    May God bless you, and may God continue to bless the Great State of Missouri.

    Last edited by Librarian; 01-30-2013 at 05:37 PM.
    I am The Librarian

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
    jewplin Missery

    Default Gov. Nixon: Medicaid expansion ‘good, right thing to do’

    Gov. Nixon: Medicaid expansion ‘good, right thing to do’

    By Eli Yokley
    January 28, 2013


    JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Gov. Jay Nixon on Monday night laid out his proposal to expand Medicaid to more than 300,000 Missourians — a direct rejection of legislative Republicans who have repeatedly vowed to block such a move.

    Nixon’s proposal — which pulls dollars provided by the 2010 federal health care law — calls for the state to accept nearly $1 billion in federal funds during fiscal year 2014 to expand the program.

    “Will we bring the tax dollars Missourians send to Washington back home to Missouri, or will we let them be spent in other states instead?” Nixon asked in his State of the State address to a joint session of the General Assembly. “Other states would get the benefits; we’d get the bill.”

    Nixon — pointing to support from the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Missouri Hospital Association, and to action by states like Arizona, North Dakota, New Mexico and Nevada, all with Republican governors — said expansion of Medicaid is both a “good thing to do” and the “right thing to do.”

    The issue will be a major point of contention between Nixon, a Democrat, and the General Assembly, which was sent to Jefferson City with a historic Republican supermajority.

    Republicans have long cited their fear that the federal government — which is supposed to fund the proposal in full for the next three years, before gradually shifting down to 90 percent by 2020 — would shift further below its pledge. Nixon, in an attempt to quell that concern, said he would be supportive of an automatic rollback on parts of the expansion if the federal funds were lessened.

    House Speaker Tim Jones, speaking to reporters after the governor’s address, said he is concerned about the idea of expanding the Medicaid program, and he fears that an attempt to roll back the program if the federal government did reduce its funding simply would not work.

    Sen. Ron Richard, R-Joplin, the majority floor leader, said he is waiting for the federal government to offer more flexibility for Medicaid expansion. He said there has been no position on expansion from his caucus just yet.

    “We keep thinking there’s going to be a change of what is coming out of Washington, D.C.,” Richard said.

    As Nixon began his full-fledged push for Medicaid expansion, he did so with the support of leaders in the business community from across the state — asking nearly a dozen representatives of business groups to stand during his remarks.

    Richard, asked whether the business community’s support of the proposal moved him, said frankly: “They don’t have to pay for it. They can believe what we want; we still have to govern.”

    Rep. Bill Lant, R-Pineville, said the governor is talking in the direction of Missouri Republicans, but he wants to see a bill before agreeing with any specific parts of Nixon’s proposal.

    “I think that whether it is the governor’s plan or our plan, nobody is saying we aren’t going to come up with something,” Lant said. “Whatever we decide on is going to need to have some type of escape mechanism in case the government does not comply.”

    Medicaid expansion was a key pillar of Nixon’s proposed $25.7 billion operating budget for fiscal year 2014, which starts July 1.

    Another pillar of the governor’s agenda was education expansion. His 2014 budget proposal includes $1 million in new funding to expand the state’s A+ Scholarship program statewide, as well as $34 million in new funding for higher education based on achievement. Missouri Southern State University would receive an extra $779,775 from Nixon’s budget, and he has designated $142,674 in additional funds for Crowder College.

    Missouri Southern President Bruce Speck was in Jefferson City on Monday for a briefing with Nixon on the state’s higher education funding system.

    Nixon also posed expanding the state’s early childhood education system — marking an additional $10 million for the Missouri Preschool Project and $3.5 million for Early Head Start programs. For K-12 education, Nixon said he is in favor of extending the school year by one week to the national average of 180 days. His budget includes a $66 million increase in funding for public schools.

    As he has in previous years, Nixon also renewed a call to reinstate campaign finance limits on candidate committees. Such limits were repealed by the General Assembly in 2008.

    “The single most destructive force in our system is unlimited money,” Nixon said. “We must reinstitute strict campaign contribution limits.”

    Nixon, himself, has been a significant beneficiary of large contributions. In the 28 days before his speech, he received more than $200,000 in checks of more than $10,000. During his campaign, he accepted a single donation of $500,000 from the Democratic Governors Association.

    Rep. Charlie Davis, R-Webb City, said Nixon’s proposal was hypocritical.

    “The call for ethics reform coming from an elected official with the history of excessive contributions from special interest groups is hypocritical,” he said.

    Davis, who serves as chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, said he hoped to hear more from the governor on the state’s veterans courts, which aim to help veterans recover from the stresses of combat.

    All the shit unfit to print


  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2009

    Default Text provided for Gov. Jay Nixon's final State of the State message

    Text provided for Gov. Jay Nixon's final State of the State message


    Thank you, Lt. Gov. Kinder, Speaker Richardson, President Pro Tem Richard, members of the General Assembly, Judges of the Missouri Supreme Court, state officials, members of my cabinet and honored guests.

    I’m also delighted to be joined this evening by Missouri’s First Lady – my wonderful wife, Georganne, and our sons Jeremiah and Will.

    Thirty-two years ago, I was a young Jefferson County lawyer beginning a campaign for the state Senate, asking people to believe in my passion, my work ethic and my vision.

    The people of my home county gave me their votes and an opportunity for a life in public service that has brought me to this moment.

    The world is a very different place than it was in 1984. But as people, our hopes, dreams and fears haven’t changed.

    And politics at its core isn’t different at all. It is still a great contest of ideas and how to put them into action.

    So tonight I want to highlight some of the real progress – and outline the perils of inaction – on the critical issues that face us now.

    Growing up in DeSoto, I went to Central Elementary School. Back then, students with challenges were warehoused in a separate building. At recess, they were the targets of jeers.

    I remember at a young age understanding that this was wrong, and trying my best to do something about it. That experience taught me some fundamental lessons that have stayed with me ever since.

    We aren’t all given the same gifts, but we all have the same rights. And our service will ultimately be measured at Heaven’s doorstep by what we did – or did not do – to help those in need.

    Seven years ago I stood right here and talked about our shared values as Missourians.

    Those values haven’t changed. Values don’t.

    And the goals of progress, based on those values, haven’t changed either.

    Tonight – my final time at this podium speaking to Missouri, to you in this room, and to history – I will be clear about my vision for a shared path forward...and the steps we can to take to grow our economy, improve our schools, care for those in need and earn the trust of the people we serve.

    And I pledge to you that I will do everything I can, with the power entrusted in me, to move us – to move you – to action.

    Action carries risks. But it’s the risk-takers who make history.

    Inaction is always easier. But inaction is also a decision with real consequences. So tonight I ask all Missourians – and especially those in this room – to join with me.

    Choose action over inaction to make life better for the people of our state.

    Don’t fight for partisan reasons – yours or mine. Instead, let’s join together to fight for progress.

    In my first state of the state address in 2009, I set five broad goals for our state based on values we share as Missourians. And on four of these five goals, we’ve taken huge strides.

    My first priority was jobs... and since the worst of the downturn, more than 100,000 new jobs have been created in Missouri.

    Second, as Chief Executive, I pledged to take the actions necessary to balance the state budget every year without raising taxes, because we believe in fiscal responsibility. We did so for seven straight years, and will continue on that path under my budget.

    My third goal was to make college better and more affordable, because education is the key to our future. Today, Missouri is number one in the country for keeping a lid on tuition increases, and under my budget we’ll stay number one this year.

    My fourth goal was to provide more Missourians with better health care. Today, 100,000 more children have health care than the day I took office.

    And this year, we’ll make historic investments to help Missourians with developmental disabilities and mental illness live with dignity and hope.

    The fifth goal I set was ethics reform. Let’s get real ethics reform on my desk this session so I can sign it into law.

    Honest, transparent and accountable state government starts with remembering what we’re here to do, and who we’re here to serve:

    People like Sarah Galbraith and Alan Doan. Eight years ago, they took a risk and started the Missouri Star Quilt Company in the small town of Hamilton. Now it’s the largest employer in Caldwell County – and brings thousands of visitors to Hamilton each year.

    People like Rebecca Balfanz – a mother who grew up in foster care and who is now on track to finish her degree in elementary education early from WGU-Missouri, to make life better for her kids.

    And people like Kelsey Mack. Kelsey has cerebral palsy, but she didn’t let it stop her dream. She opened a shop in Blue Springs selling items made exclusively by people with disabilities, to help them be more independent and empowered.

    Like so many Missourians, these folks didn’t fold in the face of a challenge. They persevered. Because that’s what the people of Missouri do.

    Just a few short weeks ago, floodwaters inundated many parts of the state, claiming 16 lives and threatening hundreds more. And as always, Missourians stood together, and reached out to help their neighbors in need.

    Let me share one remarkable story with you.

    On Dec. 27, just after 2 a.m., a call went out to the Missouri State Highway Patrol about a man who had been swept away by the floodwaters of the Pomme de Terre River in Polk County.

    Corporal David Brown and Trooper Robert Garrett sprang into action. As they neared the Highway 215 Bridge, they could hear someone shouting for help, but it was far too dark to see on that cold night.

    In spite of the danger, they launched a jet boat into the raging river. As Trooper Garrett steered through the treacherous currents, their spotlight hit the face of a young man desperately clinging to the branches of a tree ten feet above the water’s surface.

    As the man began to climb down to his rescuers, he slipped and fell into the freezing river. Before the swift current could pull him under, Corporal Brown hauled him into the boat and got him safely to dry land.

    Their training paid off; a life was saved.

    The willingness to risk their lives for others is a defining characteristic of all those who answer the call to service – as first responders, law enforcement officers and members of the military. They run toward danger, not away from it.

    Corporal Brown and Trooper Garrett, please stand. You represent all those who serve our state and our nation with honor. Please accept the thanks of your state.

    As Governor, I’ve seen many natural disasters – from floods and drought, to ice storms and tornadoes. We seem to get more than our fair share.

    Maybe that’s why Missourians have such grit... fortitude... and a relentless work ethic. No one works harder or competes tougher.

    That’s why job creation was the first goal I set back in 2009 – and why it continues to be my top priority moving forward. In ’09, Missouri’s unemployment rate spiked to nearly 10 percent; today, it’s down to only 4.4 percent – 4.4 percent, that’s lower than the national average, and the lowest it’s been in 15 years.

    When I took office, the auto industry in Missouri was on life support. Today, it’s back and booming, and Missouri is home to the most productive Ford plant in the world.

    When I took office, a lot of talented entrepreneurs couldn’t get access to the capital they needed.

    Today, Missouri is number one in the nation in new business creation.

    GDP is up, home prices have rebounded, and personal income continues to rise.

    The state of our state is strong – and getting stronger each day. But we can’t let up.

    We need to keep our economy moving – keep our fiscal house in order, and keep our AAA credit rating intact.

    The balanced budget I present tonight continues our commitment to my second goal: fiscal responsibility.

    Over the last seven years, we’ve made state government smaller, smarter and more efficient – while making $2 billion in cuts necessary to balance the budget. Not everyone liked those cuts, and they weren’t easy to make. But Missouri is stronger today because we took action.

    In an election year like this, there are folks out there who claim the size of government has grown, and that spending is out of control.

    Maybe that’s true in Washington. But not here in the Show-Me State.

    Here in Missouri we balance our budgets, we pay the bills, and we pay down debt.

    In fact, when I leave office, we will have less debt than when I came in.

    State government today is 5,087 positions smaller than when I took office, and under my budget it will keep getting smaller. 5,000 is about the size of my hometown of DeSoto, or all of Putnam County.

    Balancing budgets. Paying our bills. Protecting our AAA credit rating.

    Responsibility and accountability matter – that’s what taxpayers expect and what they deserve.

    Our AAA rating is the gold standard. It tells businesses around the globe that the Show-Me State is a smart place to invest. And it’s a big selling point for our state.

    Time and time again it has been a deal-closer for Missouri – unlike Illinois, which can’t even pass a budget, or Kansas, which can’t even pay its bills.

    And both of those states had their credit ratings downgraded. Meanwhile, Missouri’s economy keeps growing.

    Last week I was back at the auto show in Detroit, where – once again – the spotlight was on the all-new vehicles built with pride here in Missouri.

    Before I took office, auto plants were closing; one out of every three jobs in the automotive industry in Missouri had disappeared. And the first time I went up to the Auto Show, the mood was grim.

    Seven years later, more than 24,000 men and women are working at auto plants and suppliers in Warrensburg and Willow Springs; Perryville and Portageville; Mexico and Moberly; in Troy, Dexter, New Haven and, of course, St. Louis and Kansas City, where employment at the Ford and GM plants has more than doubled.

    Today, Missouri workers build the toughest, safest, most innovative and in-demand vehicles in the world:

    The Ford F-150 – America’s best-selling pickup truck: Made in Missouri.

    The 2016 Truck of the Year, the Chevy Colorado: Made in Missouri.

    The best-selling commercial van in the U.S., the Ford Transit: Made in Missouri.

    American made – Missouri strong.

    And by rebuilding the American auto industry, we’re helping rebuild the middle-class.

    Last year every union worker at Ford and GM got a huge bonus: thousands of dollars, right into the pockets of the working men and women of our state. Those bonuses paid off credit cards and student loans… put Royals hats and Cardinals jerseys under the Christmas tree… and poured tens of millions of dollars into our economy.

    Last year, if you’ll recall, we were joined by a crowd of cheering autoworkers who came to the Capitol to show their gratitude for the work we did here.

    They’re not here tonight – because they’re working. Demand is so high they even had to give up lunch breaks at the GM plant.

    So next time you see one of those shiny new Colorados or F-150s, remember who built them: skilled union workers, making good union wages, and keeping the American dream alive right here in the Show-Me State.

    But the economic growth we’ve seen isn’t just in Kansas City and St. Louis, it’s in Sedalia and Springfield, St. Joe and Joplin.

    Joplin…where the population is greater today than it was before the tornado in 2011, and where the economy is going strong.

    With faith and courage, the people of Joplin rebuilt their community from the ground up – planting trees and painting murals; rebuilding homes and hospitals, schools and churches, playgrounds and businesses.

    One of those new businesses belongs to Toby Teeter, an entrepreneur I met at Joplin’s Newman Innovation Center. About a year ago, Toby started a tech company called LocalRaces.com. It builds websites that communities and charities can use to organize running events, from 5ks to marathons.

    Toby’s biggest challenge was finding the funds he needed to get his concept up and running. Our Missouri Technology Corporation provided $100,000 in seed capital that Toby was able to match with private investments. Today, Local Races dot com is growing, and hiring – creating high-tech jobs in the heart of Joplin.

    Please join me in recognizing Toby, his wife Ashleigh, and all the entrepreneurs who are helping to make Missouri a hub of technology and innovation.

    Thanks to the work we’ve done here, MTC has already helped startups across the state leverage more than $200 million in private investment.

    Maybe that’s why recent census data showed that Missouri was number one in the nation in creating new businesses – number one.

    While new business creation declined in 39 states, Missouri bucked that trend with a dramatic increase in startups. That’s a very big deal.

    To continue this momentum, my budget increases funding for the Missouri Technology Corporation by $10 million to help more entrepreneurs innovate and grow right here in the Show-Me State.

    Tourism is another important part of our economy.

    That’s why, when I took office, I wanted to reverse a 10-year decline in state park attendance. While budget cuts forced other states to close parks or charge entrance fees, we kept ours open – and free for all.

    Missouri has been recognized as the best state in the nation for camping and hiking. Last year, our state parks had more than 19.2 million visitors. That's a new record and an increase of nearly 30 percent since 2008. More young people are out hunting in our woods and fishing in our lakes and streams.

    With our focus on marketing Missouri to the world, tourism’s economic impact in the Show-Me State has surged by nearly 30 percent, supporting nearly 300,000 jobs. To continue this success, my budget this year includes another $3 million to get the word out about all Missouri has to offer.

    For example, this year, we will extend the Katy Trail all the way across our state and expand our park system, giving folks even more reasons to enjoy the outdoors, and spend money in the Show-Me State.

    When we talk about ways to keep our economy moving forward, we’ve got to include Missouri’s number one industry: agriculture.

    My budget includes funding for scholarships for the next generation of Missouri dairy farmers, and additional resources to increase the value of our cattle industry.

    I would like to recognize our outstanding Agriculture Director Richard Fordyce, up in the gallery. He’s got a great group of folks with him tonight: the hardworking producers who earned the Governor’s Award for Agricultural Achievement.

    People talk about agriculture being the backbone of our state. Well, these folks are the backbone of agriculture.

    When your alarm clock goes off in the morning, they’re already up, breaking the ice in the stock tank.

    When you’re kicking back in the recliner after dinner to watch your favorite TV show, they’re out in the shed, working on the tractor.

    This year’s winners hail from every part of our state – New Madrid to Norborne, Aurora to Fayette – raising corn, beans, apples, timber, chickens and hogs.

    Please join me in thanking them for all they do to feed, fuel and clothe our state, our nation and our world.

    Our producers are doing their part. Now we have to do ours.

    We can’t sell Missouri goods if we can’t get them to market.

    That’s why my budget invests an additional $5 million to improve and expand our ports – so we can ship more Missouri goods around the world and create more jobs here at home.

    We’ve also got too many bad roads and rickety bridges. We all know it, and it’s time to act.

    Roads aren’t free. Last time I checked, nobody was giving away concrete and asphalt.

    I’ve been clear about my position: if you use the roads, you should help pay for them. What I don’t support is taking money that should go to schools, law enforcement and mental health, and using it to patch potholes.

    With gas prices the lowest they’ve been in more than a decade, now is the time to get this done.

    Senator Libla, I appreciate your leadership in this area. I’m looking for your bill to move into the passing lane and get to my desk this year. Let’s work together to move transportation forward in Missouri.

    Another way we can continue to strengthen our economy is by strengthening Missouri families. Finding good, affordable childcare is a challenge for every working family in America – and especially those with low incomes. That’s why my budget makes child care more affordable for 20,000 low-income working families, reducing their out-of-pocket costs.

    And this year, we are going to expand family-friendly policies like parental leave for state employees.

    It’s good for kids, it’s good for families – and it’s good for our state.

    We need to strengthen all families.

    In July, I signed an executive order to ensure compliance with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision establishing a right to same-sex marriage. No one should be discriminated against because of who they love.

    We’ve come a long way on this issue, but there is more to be done. It is unacceptable that Missourians can still be fired for being gay. That’s wrong, it’s not who we are – and it must change.

    I repeat my call for the General Assembly to pass the Missouri Nondiscrimination Act, which would prohibit discrimination against LGBT Missourians in employment, housing and public accommodations.

    Equal opportunity and social justice go hand-in-hand; one cannot exist without the other.

    We are upholding these principles and restoring trust through sweeping municipal court reforms and improved police training.

    Our POST Commission has put forward strong new rules to update and enhance Missouri’s police training standards. We also need to update our use of force statute. Let’s support our cops – and the communities they serve. Let’s get this done.

    The third priority I identified when I took office was education. Public education is the best economic development tool we’ve got, and it’s a value we share.

    Our children need an education that prepares them to be critical thinkers and problem-solvers – innovators who will rise to the challenges of climate change and food production, harness clean energy, and conquer disease.

    That’s why, even during the worst of the recession, we never backed away from our commitment to support our public schools. We provided record funding – and set higher expectations.

    There were some who doubted whether our students and schools were up to the challenge, who said the new state standards were too tough, too ambitious.

    I disagreed. I knew that if we raised our expectations, our students would rise to meet them. No gimmicks or voucher schemes – just great teachers, the right tools, strong communities, and a shared commitment to excellence.

    And we are getting results. Test scores are rising. Our graduation rate is now in the top 10 in the nation. And more high school graduates are college ready.

    My budget ensures that education remains a top priority with an increase of $150 million – record funding – for our local public schools.

    That includes funding for the foundation formula, special education, transportation, and struggling school districts.

    And for the first time, we’ll be funding early childhood education through the foundation formula, giving more than 2,500 kids access to high quality pre-school this year.

    Under my budget, troubled schools will get the early-intervention and support they need to turn things around. And more students in low-income communities will have the opportunity to learn 21st Century skills like computer science.

    These investments in our future are possible because over the last seven years – even in the throes of the Great Recession – we kept our fiscal house in order and made smart decisions about our priorities, like education.

    Because we did, the budget I present tonight invests $400 million more in the K-12 foundation formula than when I became Governor.

    Funding is an essential part of the equation for successful schools. So is the drive to succeed.

    Tonight we are joined by Dr. Scott Spurgeon, superintendent of the Riverview Gardens School District in St. Louis County, and some of Riverview’s outstanding high school seniors.

    The district includes areas of high crime, poverty and unemployment. Like so many urban school districts, that combination can create tough challenges for teachers, students and families. But under Dr. Spurgeon’s dynamic leadership, the district has rallied.

    Dr. Spurgeon played some serious baseball as a young man. He knows what it takes to compete and to win.

    So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Riverview was the most improved school district in the state last year, and continues to make dramatic progress. You want to see what relentless focus and hard work can do?

    Meet the outstanding, college-bound students here with us tonight – Cameron Johnson, Darius Bass, Cordell Billups, Kristofer Grant, Devyn Walton and Shannon Washington.

    Please join me in congratulating Dr. Spurgeon and these talented young people.

    In 2009, too many kids couldn’t afford college – and those who did get a degree were saddled with too much debt.

    But today, more kids are going to college, getting their degrees – all while taking on far less debt than the national average. We’re talking thousands of dollars less.

    In fact, Missouri is number one in the nation in holding down tuition increases at our four-year institutions. Number one.

    This year, we will strengthen Missouri’s position as a leader in college affordability and quality.

    First, my budget includes an additional $56 million in performance funding. And with this historic investment, our public colleges and universities will once again freeze tuition for Missouri undergraduates this fall. They won’t pay a penny more.

    We’re also upping our investment in Missouri’s A+ scholarship program to keep up with increasing demand. When I took office, fewer than half the schools in the state were A+, but today nearly all of them are – because I believed every student deserved an opportunity to earn an A+ scholarship.

    For low-income families, we’re putting more money in Access Scholarships – reducing the cost of college for tens of thousands of students.

    By focusing on affordability and demanding quality, we’ve driven a surge in college completion. Last year, more than 50,000 students earned a degree from one of our public institutions – up 36 percent since I took office.

    Thirty-six percent. That’s a big number – and a lot of proud parents.

    My budget provides more resources to train even more Missourians for careers in high-demand health care fields.

    And thanks to people in this room and our AAA credit rating, there are construction projects underway right now on campuses across the state: an engineering building at Mizzou, chemistry and biology labs at UMKC and Missouri S&T, renovations at Baldwin Hall at Truman, 19 new labs at St. Louis Community College... and the list goes on.

    The best way to secure our future is by investing in the people who will lead it – the next generation. We’re making a difference. Let’s keep it up.

    Let’s also work together to protect kids and consumers by reining in the billion-dollar daily fantasy sports industry.

    Let’s get real: this is gambling, kids are playing, and it’s completely unregulated. And there are lobbyists in this building who want to keep it that way. If you’re going to legalize it, we must regulate it and tax it just like we do casinos.

    This industry should follow the law, play by the rules, and pay its fair share. This could mean millions of dollars a year for education.

    I spoke earlier about the children with special needs at my elementary school, who were made fun of on the playground because they were different. Doing more for children like them has been a passion of mine ever since.

    When I took office, insurance companies didn’t cover therapy for thousands of Missouri kids with autism. Today, thousands of children are receiving life-changing therapy because we worked together and passed landmark autism legislation.

    And with increased funding in my budget, we will build a new autism center at Truman State University, expand the Thompson Center for Autism in Columbia, and increase services at Mercy Kids Autism Center in St. Louis. That means more research, more treatment, better training and healthier kids.

    When I took office, Missourians with developmental disabilities had to wait years for in-home Medicaid services. Today, there is no waiting list. Zero.

    Under my budget, it will stay at zero – and we’ll provide additional resources to those who care for Missourians with developmental disabilities.

    We also need to reach out to those Missourians with severe mental illness.

    When I took office, some of these people were locked up in a dangerous and decrepit facility in Fulton, first opened in 1851. It will soon be replaced by a state-of-the-art psychiatric hospital dedicated to modern treatment, rehabilitation and research.

    Too often Missourians with severe mental illness can’t afford the treatment they need. And so they bounce in and out of our jails and emergency rooms – and back out onto the streets. It’s expensive, counterproductive and no way for anyone to live.

    My budget includes $1.6 million to get those folks out of our emergency rooms, off the streets, and into treatment.

    Today, in every county in the state, mental health professionals are partnering with local law enforcement to help those suffering from chronic mental illness find treatment and stability.

    But our work is not finished.

    Our goal is to help more individuals get into treatment earlier, before they reach a crisis point.

    That’s why this year we will roll out a crisis prevention program for Missourians between the ages of 21 and 35 with serious mental illness and substance abuse problems.

    And while we’re at it, Missouri needs to join the other 49 states in the nation, get a prescription drug monitoring program, and start to get a handle on the epidemic of opiate abuse.

    In total, my budget includes an increase of nearly $200 million for services to help Missourians with developmental disabilities and mental illness.

    These programs change lives. They save lives. We can work together to make our communities safer, healthier and stronger.

    We also need to provide quality care for our proud veterans, including thousands of men and women who served in Vietnam. Last year, I signed legislation to provide $33 million in improvements to our veterans’ homes.

    But we can do more. My budget includes funds for the design of a new veterans home, so that no veteran has to languish on a waiting list.

    They did their duty – let’s do ours.

    There’s a lot of rhetoric in politics today about helping working families. How about helping them get health care?

    Right now we’ve got a backward system in our state. It encourages folks to sit at home and not work, and punishes working Missourians with jobs that don’t offer health insurance.

    More than 30 states already have expanded Medicaid, including ten with Republican legislatures.

    This should be the year that we find a way forward, with a Missouri solution that rewards work, demands personal responsibility, brings our tax dollars home, and gives health care to 300,000 working Missourians.

    Make no mistake – inaction has real consequences. It’s time to stop playing politics with people’s lives. Do the right thing and give them access to health care.

    The fifth goal I set when I took office was ethics reform. Missouri’s ethics laws are a disgrace – the weakest in the nation.

    The people of Missouri are nobody’s fools. They understand that a donor who writes you a fat check expects something in return.

    They know that if a lobbyist showers you with gifts, or takes you to the country club for cocktails and the surf-and-turf, he’s going to lean on you before dessert.

    They know it’s wrong for legislators to launder campaign contributions by paying each other for political advice. Missouri has got to clean up its act.

    I want to thank Speaker Richardson for pushing forward on this issue. But we’re a long way from the finish line. Let’s come together, restore the public’s trust and pass real ethics reform now.

    Before I close, I’d like to introduce you to a family that demonstrates the kind of difference we can make when we work together.

    Paul and Jennifer Johnson are originally from Indiana. Paul was an electrician at the GM plant in Kokomo, and Jennifer was a stay-at-home mom. But in Indiana, GM was downsizing and Paul got laid off. He had just drawn his last unemployment check when he got an offer to work at the GM plant here in Missouri. He jumped at the chance.

    Six months later, Jennifer got a job at the plant as well. Now they’re both building next-generation vehicles here in the Show-Me State.

    They like living in Wentzville so much that they convinced their daughter and her two kids to move nearby. Jennifer says the school district is awesome.

    But the biggest upside of their move is how well their grandson, Tristan, is doing. Tristan has autism. Before their move to Missouri, he was nonverbal. But with the help of therapy, he’s now speaking – and thriving. Jennifer says it’s had a huge impact on their family.

    Paul and Jennifer are here with us tonight and I want to thank them for reminding us what Missouri is all about. We work hard. We build things. We care for people who need it. And we welcome everyone.

    In the past three decades, I’ve learned a great deal from the people I’ve had the privilege to serve.

    I’ve learned that Missourians are stronger, more resilient and more generous than you could ever imagine.

    I’ve learned that Missouri’s rich diversity is not a weakness – it’s a strength.

    I’ve learned that Missourians never shy away from a challenge. We listen, we learn and we get better.

    I’ve also learned that there’s a big difference between politics and public service.

    Politics is a horse race, but the stakes are much higher than winning the election. The real prize is the opportunity to make life better – for people you don’t know and may never meet.

    And I am profoundly grateful that the people of Missouri have given me that high honor.

    My mom taught kids with developmental disabilities. She worked hard at a job she loved, cared deeply for others, and always stood up for what she knew was right.

    She passed away before I became a state senator. But I am still trying to live up to her expectations and ideals – that we have an obligation to serve all Missourians: young and old, rich and poor, black and white, gay and straight, new arrivals and native sons.

    And when we work together – guided by our shared values – and focus on the right things, we can make a lasting difference.

    When I started in this job, Missouri was staring down the barrel of a crisis – unemployment was skyrocketing, factories were closing, and people were losing their homes and cars.

    Some of you were here then – Senator Walsh, Senator Wasson, Representative Engler – you remember: it was rough.

    We were getting WARN notices practically every day about layoffs.

    But we had a plan. We stuck to it.

    And we delivered: a hundred thousand new jobs; a balanced budget every year without higher taxes; better schools and affordable college; and healthier kids.

    Do we have more work to do? Of course.

    But look where we are now: 4.4 percent unemployment, personal income and GDP on the rise, number one in new business creation, AAA credit rating intact.

    I appreciate those of you in this room who put progress before partisanship to move our state forward.

    But as always, the real credit belongs to the people of Missouri.

    Together, Missourians of every generation have worked hard to build a brighter future.

    Our enduring values have guided us through good times and bad.

    And because I share those values, I am optimistic about our future – optimistic that the people of Missouri will prevail in the face of every challenge, and enjoy the blessings of freedom, equality and prosperity for years to come.

    Let’s use the brief time that remains to each of us, to work together and leave Missouri better than we found it.

    God willing, it will be.

    Thank you and God bless our great State.

    I am The Librarian

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