By Scott Pattison
“No matter how much falls on us, we keep plowing ahead. That’s the only way to keep the roads clear.” Kansas author Greg Kincaid included this gem of wisdom in a book about a dog named Christmas, but it might apply most clearly to our region’s governors. After all, the state executive is the leader we select to take care of everything from potholes in our streets to cybersecurity for our elections.
While gridlock has been the order of the day in Washington, states remain in action. Governors are working on overdrive to solve some of our nation’s most significant problems, and positive outcomes are happening in the states, all over the country. Some of the most impressive successes have come in the middle part of the country.
Area governors have faced down a lot of challenges lately. Perhaps most prominently, Missouri Governor Mike Parson has used his three months so far in office to bring a steady hand, a healthy dose of humility, and longstanding bipartisan relationships to Jefferson City.
A farmer himself, Gov. Parson is well known for helping to enshrine the right to farm in the Missouri Constitution and remains committed to keeping the Heartland’s agricultural heritage alive. At the same time, his support may make Missouri the Cobalt State by enabling recovery of the largest North American reserve of this metal used in high-performance batteries.
To the north, Governor Mark Dayton’s keen focus on clean energy over the last eight years is pushing Minnesota to lead the region in clean energy employment. Not only did the state meet its Renewable Energy Standard goal seven years early, but a new report shows more than 59,000 Minnesota residents now work in clean energy industries in every county across the state. These jobs are in every industry from manufacturing to construction and technology.
Tennessee is also in the process of selecting new leadership while congratulating eight-year governor Bill Haslam for a job well done. Since he took office, more than 378,000 private sector jobs were created and state unemployment dropped to its lowest rate since the statistics were first reported in the 1970s.
But Gov. Haslam may be best known for improving Tennessee’s public schools, transforming a system that once left 70 percent of incoming community college students in need of remedial work into one of the fastest improving education climates in the nation. Today, high school graduation rates hover near 90 percent and average ACT scores surpassed 20 for the first time ever. Despite this $1.5 billion investment, the state remains lowest in both taxes and debt.
Also looking to the future is Governor Eric Holcomb, who is trailblazing on infrastructure funding. Just this month, Gov. Holcomb announced a new plan to pursue $1 billion in infrastructure projects that will ultimately be funded by a 35 percent fee on most large trucks. This funding will be used to expand Hoosier’s broadband access, increase more biking and hiking trails, improve roadways, attract more international flights, and accelerate highways construction projects.
Right now, the economy is at a record high, but not every family feels secure. Fortunately, America’s governors are taking action to build stronger, more diversified local economies, better educational systems to prepare students for the workforce, and programs to help their constituents face their own challenges. Divisive politics may continue to dominate the news cycle, but our nation’s governors will remain focused on the tough, local issues that matter most to families’ day-to-day lives.
Scott Pattison is CEO of the National Governors Association in Washington, D.C.