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State of the State 2020: Parson continues push for workforce, education opportunities

   

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — In Gov. Mike Parson’s second State of the State address, he focused on themes that have been largely prevalent throughout his time in office: workforce development and transportation. But in addition, the Republican chief executive also rang in 2020 with a call for more educational opportunities and government accountability.

“That is why my call this legislative session is to propose initiatives aimed at building stronger communities, improving education and workforce development, revitalizing our infrastructure, and making government more accountable,” Parson said in the nearly hour-long address. “It is critical to understand that all of these issues provide individuals with more opportunities, strengthen public safety, and create healthier and more stable communities.”

Parson, Missouri’s 57th governor, addressed a joint session of the General Assembly Wednesday afternoon. The former lieutenant governor, Parson was elevated to the helm of Missouri following the resignation of former Gov. Eric Eric Greitens in June 2018. 

Here are the highlights of Parson’s 2020 address. 

Workforce development 

“In just a single year, Missouri’s workforce development agenda has caught the attention of the rest of the country. Other states are watching us and taking notes, and we are rapidly working towards our goal of becoming the best in the Midwest and, frankly, the best in the nation,” Parson said, specifically pointing to the One Start program that has attracted 42,000 Missourians. 

During his address, Parson harped on Missouri’s low unemployment rate and the creation of more than 40,000 jobs since he took over as governor. He applauded Bayer, Boeing, CVS, and General Motors for investing in Missouri as well as Kansas City for being selected as the new home for several U.S. Department of Agriculture offices. 

“This is just the beginning, and these successes will help us build further momentum. All of these are shared successes and show that by working together, our investments in workforce development and infrastructure are succeeding,” Parson said. “I am proud to report we have exceeded even our own estimates, and the result has been better cost savings and more projects for the people of Missouri.”

Gun control

Aside from economic issues, Parson also touched on violent crime in Missouri. Before lawmakers came back to Jefferson City for the legislative session, Parson met with several metro cities’ mayors as the state has grappled with gun violence. Despite news reports suggesting the contrary, Parson reaffirmed his commitment against gun control efforts earlier this month.

Parson again stressed his “support [for] the Second Amendment for law-abiding citizens” — a line that received a standing ovation. 

“We all have to understand the very real issues of violent crime affecting our neighborhoods and the potential consequences of doing nothing,” Parson said. By working with the mayors, Parson said the coalition came up with a set of goals: increasing protections for victims and witnesses, providing stronger mental health resources and services, and strengthening laws to “target violent criminals.” 

“We won’t always agree, and there will always be issues we each feel passionately about. But I am confident that by working together, the potential for our regions and the entire state of Missouri is even greater,” Parson said before recognizing mayors and police officers from Columbia, Kansas City, Springfield, and St. Louis. 

“I have learned that no one knows more about their communities than the mayors,” Parson said.

Education

Parson called for $750,000 to certify more than 10,000 high school students as “work-ready” through the state’s Work Keys program as well as greater access to virtual education for high schoolers. 

“This is a major step that could open doors to students [who are] not sure if college is in their immediate plans but still put them on a path to greater opportunities,” the governor said. 

Additionally, he called for an additional $19 million for the MoExcels Workforce Initiative. 

“And we can do all of this while increasing school transportation funding and still fully funding our Foundation Formula,” Parson said. 

The Republican governor also said he wanted to improve teacher pay in Missouri — but through collaboration with school districts, school boards, and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education as opposed to just “asking the state to write a bigger check.” 

Medicaid

Parson unequivocally shot down Medicaid expansion during his address, saying: “The reality is that expanding this system comes at the cost of other vital services such as education, workforce development, and improving our aging infrastructure.” 

State Auditor Nicole Galloway, who was in attendance in the House Chambers for the State of the State and is running against Parson in 2020, released a rebuttal video pointing to issues with the state’s Medicaid program, specifically the high number of children who have been removed. Her video featured two Missouri mothers who found their children had been removed from the system but were supposed to be eligible. 

“Governor Parson has resisted calls to investigate, has offered excuses, and now refuses to take accountability for the purge of eligible kids from their health insurance. This is unacceptable,” Galloway said in a statement. “Governor Parson must act and restore coverage for every eligible child in Missouri.”

But Parson said the state’s Medicaid system “has been broken for many years and unproductively serving every Missourian who is paying for it.” 

Reminder: Here’s a look at Parson’s 2019 State of the State address.