JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Missouri Governor Mike Parson on Wednesday delivered his first State of the State address as the elected governor of Missouri. The address comes as the state and the nation are still grappling with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
Parson is touting his handling of the coronavirus pandemic in his State of the State address to lawmakers.
The speech was moved from the House chambers to the Senate due to COVID-19 concerns. The House was out of session last week due to COVID-19 and several Senators are now in quarantine because of it.
A joint statement from Republican House and Senate leadership said the location change will allow attendees to maintain CDC social distancing guidelines and “maximize safety while still honoring the tradition of an in-person address by the Governor.”
Senate Democratic Leader John Rizzo, currently in quarantine after being exposed to someone who tested positive, criticized the need for an in-person speech given the circumstances.
“The Governor’s desire to give a big speech in-person is about vanity and optics. He could easily give this address online from his office without putting anyone’s health at risk,” he said in a statement.
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Speech highlights from the governor’s office:
Workforce and Education
During his speech, Governor Parson emphasized the importance of Missouri’s children to the state’s future workforce. To strengthen Missouri’s early childhood system, Governor Parson announced the consolidation of several different programs and divisions across three state agencies into a new Office of Childhood.
In addition to early childhood development, Governor Parson also proposed multiple investments in K-12 education, including a fully funded Foundation Formula and the expansion of the WorkKeys curriculum (Career Ready 101) to all 57 existing career centers in Missouri.
For college-bound students, Governor Parson called for an increase of more than $13 million for the A+ scholarship program as well as the continued funding for the Fast Track Workforce Incentive Grant program.
Building on Missouri’s progress over the past two years, Governor Parson again called for major investments in infrastructure, including $6.3 million for shovel-ready projects at Missouri’s established ports and $25 million to fulfill the transportation cost-share program established by Governor Parson’s administration in 2019.
Additionally, Governor Parson announced his administration will once again seek $5 million to continue expanding and improving broadband services across the state.
This year’s budget proposal will also seek approval for infrastructure projects at 22 state parks and a one-time expenditure of $100 million to clear the backlog of maintenance projects for state assets, facilities, and buildings.
During his speech, Governor Parson recalled his challenge to the Missouri Peace Officers Standards and Training (POST) Commission to take a leading role in advancing officer training and improving public relations. The POST Commission followed through on this challenge, voting in October to require annual training in de-escalation techniques and implicit bias.
The state also recently granted Lincoln University a basic training center license to establish the nation’s first law enforcement training academy at a Historically Black College and University to help recruit more minority officers to serve in law enforcement. The state is currently working to find commitments for all program scholarships for the first three years.
To further support law enforcement, Governor Parson proposed $1.5 million for the witness protection fund passed by the General Assembly during the special session on violent crime.
Governor Parson also expressed his commitment to supporting more coordination among local, state, and federal law enforcement through initiatives like Operation Legend.
COVID-19 has drastically changed the way health care is delivered, and the demand for telehealth has increased significantly. Given these changes, Governor Parson proposed over $4 million to support telehealth for individuals with developmental disabilities.
Governor Parson also proposed more than $20 million to establish 50 new community mental health and substance use disorder advocates and six new crisis stabilization centers across the state.
Since taking office, Governor Parson and his administration have continually pushed for greater efficiency, streamlining operations, and saving taxpayer money.
This year, Governor Parson announced that the state will continue these changes with a focus on foster care and adoption. The state’s goal is to take a stressful, complex, and often frustrating process and consolidate rulemaking authority into one department.
Governor Parson also proposed a pay increase for state employees to help retain and attract quality public servants for the people of Missouri.