JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — In his first State of the State address, Gov. Mike Parson focused on two topics that he has talked about since taking office: workforce development and infrastructure.
Missouri’s 57th Governor spoke to a joint session of the 100th General Assembly on Wednesday, January 16, 2019. Parson, a former lawmaker elected lieutenant governor in 2016, assumed the position as Missouri’s chief executive after then-Gov. Eric Greitens resigned on June 1, 2018.
Parson called on the members of the Missouri Senate and House to help him move Missouri forward by taking bold steps and tackle big issues. No one person or party has a monopoly on good ideas, he noted, but the best ideas are those that will serve the people of Missouri.
“I stand before you today to share a vision. A vision that will chart Missouri’s future into the next decade. Missouri is dear to my heart, and by working together, we can protect and build a Missouri that is successful for the next generation,” said Parson.
To do that, they need to tackle the tough challenges and commit to bold ideas. Parson noted that the longer they delay and avoid tough decisions, the bigger the problems become.
Instead of trying to make everything a priority, to which Parson says makes nothing truly a priority, there are two areas he wants to truly focus on. The areas that the governor highlighted during his speech are issues that he has talked about since taking office: workforce development and infrastructure.
“So let me be crystal clear, cultivating and training our workforce for high-demand jobs and investing in critical infrastructure are the priorities we must address this session,” said Parson.
Workforce development is an issue Parson has focused on before he even stepped into his current position but has added an extra spotlight on the issue in recent months.
The state must consider making necessary changes to the education programs and update the training pipelines to make sure economic growth in Missouri, Parson noted. Having a workforce that meets the job demand is part of ensuring companies come, and stay, in the state.
Missouri’s high school graduation rate is higher than most states, however, the Show-Me State falls behind other states when looking at post-secondary education. Parson noted that extra levels of education, not necessarily 4-year degrees, are needed to provide for the demands of the workforce.
“This is why my budget calls for a total investment of nearly $75 million dollars into bold and innovative workforce development programs,” said Parson.
As part of the budget, a program called Fast Track would work directly to improve Missouri’s workforce.
“Fast Track will allow Missourians to receive advanced training in high-demand areas largely taught at our community colleges, technical schools, and colleges and universities,” said Parson. “This will open the doors for Missourians to have opportunities to earn more money for their hard work.”
Along with workforce development, improving the state’s infrastructure is a priority for the Parson administration.
Infrastructure is much more than just bricks and mortar, roads, and bridges in today’s society, according to Parson, It also includes broadband and much more.
One of those areas in Missouri is high-speed broadband access. Missouri has around ten school districts and many rural communities that lack access to high-speed broadband. Parson called this ”unacceptable.”
Which is why he added $5 million in broadband funding.
Infrastructure is also the state’s agriculture and manufacturing industries. It also includes waterways and railroads. But one area of infrastructure that needs focus in roads and bridges, noted Parson.
“Over the years, we have seen proposals go before the voters and fail, but this cannot — and — does not mean we are expected to do nothing,” said Parson. “This is why I am asking you to consider an infrastructure plan. While funded through our budget savings, it will give us the ability to begin immediate work on nearly 250 bridges across the state of Missouri, all in need of critical repair or replacement.”
Parson said that he is confident that by focusing on the major issues of workforce development and infrastructure together, they will have a successful legislative session
“[T]hese are the issues that will benefit all Missourians,” said Parson.
But those aren’t the only issues his administration will focus on. He said the under his leadership they will restructure state government, demand greater efficiency and accountability, and improve customer service to all Missourians.
“I’ll admit, this is going to take some time, but we are not going to put it off any longer. It will start today,” said Parson.
Alisha Shurr was a reporter for The Missouri Times and The Missouri Times Magazine. She joined The Missouri Times in January 2018 after working as a copy editor for her hometown newspaper in Southern Oregon. Alisha is a graduate of Kansas State University.