Nixon Delivers Democratic Response
The people of this state are our greatest strength. As Missourians, we value our family and our faith. We would give a neighbor in need the shirt off our back. And most importantly, we want a better life for our children.
Unfortunately, those priorities are often neglected by the current leaders in Jefferson City. As a result, our state is in danger of missing opportunities to build an even stronger Missouri. Across our nation, Governors - both Republicans and Democrats - are providing real leadership to address the challenges facing their states. But here in Missouri, were being led in the wrong direction. Nowhere is this clearer than on the issue of healthcare.
In California and Massachusetts, Republican Governors have proposed plans to offer health insurance for all citizens. Closer to home, in Illinois and Kansas, Democratic Governors Blagojevich and Sebelius have done the same.
These governors and others are taking creative approaches to make health care available to all citizens.
Unfortunately, in Missouri we are taking the opposite approach. Already Governor Blunt has cut or reduced health insurance for more than 400,000 Missouri citizens, including more than 55,000 Missouri children. Governor Blunt even signed a law which will eliminate the Medicaid program entirely. Under his watch, the number of citizens without health insurance has increased by 17 percent.
Think about that for a moment. While other Governors are leading their states to expand health care options, our Governor is slashing health care, and leaving too many of our families with no health care at all.
Even if you weren't one of the unlucky Missourians to lose their healthcare, you've paid more because of the Governor's actions. Governor Blunt's steep cuts to Medicaid meant that Missouri sent back more than 1 billion dollars in federal funding for healthcare. That's a billion with a "B". Many of you who lost health coverage were forced to go to hospital emergency rooms for your basic healthcare needs, which led to higher premiums for all Missourians. That's right: all of us in Missouri -- families, doctors, businesses -- have had to pay the tab for Governor Blunt's Medicaid cuts.
It doesn't have to be this way. There is a real difference between our agenda and the Blunt agenda on health care. Governor Blunt asks how much health care he can possibly cut. We ask how much health care can we possibly provide with the money available.
And make no mistake. That money is available. Tonight, the Governor presented a record breaking budget. Over 20 billion dollars. And still, 55,000 fewer kids have health care. Democrats will make restoring the cuts to Medicaid and health care our number one priority. And this Governor should as well.
Our state needs bold, creative leadership - not politics and rhetoric. Not only in health care, but in education as well. Across our nation, Republican and Democratic Governors are working to make college more affordable. In Georgia, every student with a B average has an opportunity to attend a state college or technical school tuition-free.
But here in Missouri, we are moving in the wrong direction on college affordability. Under Governor Blunt, the cost of tuition has risen dramatically. It now costs nearly half of a working family's annual income to send a child to college. The result& there are fewer students in four year colleges today than there were twenty five years ago.
Now Governor Blunt is trying to force through a plan that would strip away hundreds of millions of dollars from MOHELA, the agency that provides low-interest student loans to middle-class families. This plan does nothing to make higher education more affordable for Missouri families. We believe this is evidence of the fundamentally-flawed priorities of the political leaders in Jefferson City.
Public high schools and grade schools in Missouri also deserve leadership that supports their efforts and understands their challenges. Leaders who will make education a central priority.
Again, there is a real difference between Governor Blunt and Democrats on education. Governor Blunt wants to take taxpayer dollars away from our public schools and give them to private schools. We believe that public education must be the priority. Great teachers, local control, accountability, smaller class size, and alternative schools are the measures that deserve our support.
Making education a priority today will help create the skilled workers of tomorrow, workers that are prepared for the jobs of the 21st century and ready to compete in the economy of the future.
Too many Missourians can't make ends meet in the job they're in, can't find the job they want, or fear they may lose the job they have. It will take real leadership and bold ideas to build the kind of economy and attract the kind of jobs Missouri needs.
Other states are moving ahead. In Iowa, the Governor has launched a bold initiative to make his state a leader in producing renewable energy. In New Mexico, the Governor has made major investments in infrastructure to make his state more attractive to business.
Unfortunately we are still waiting for Governor Blunt to show leadership on the economy. Missouri currently ranks 46th in the nation at creating jobs. And wages have stalled. Missouri paychecks grew by less than all but two states.
These facts and figures are simply another way of saying what most of you already know - you are working harder, but you are not getting any further ahead. Governor Blunt is leading us in the wrong direction.
And while we may not be able to count on our Governor, we can count on the good sense of Missourians. In November we passed a long overdue minimum wage increase. Regardless of Governor Blunts strong opposition, it was the right thing to do.
The question now facing Missouri is whether our state is going to join other states in moving forward.
Over the next year, we will put forward a positive agenda to help Missourians achieve our full potential. We believe that more should be done to help the middle class pay for college; we believe in limiting the amount of money that special interest lobbyists can give to elected officials; we believe in tough, anti-crime legislation to crackdown on sex predators.
And we believe in making sure that the state's energy companies don't force Missourians to remain without power for weeks at a time while asking for an unprecedented rate hike. There's simply no excuse for rewarding the outages that we've seen over the past year.
On this, on healthcare, and many other areas, Missouri can do better. You work hard, you play by the rules, and you pay your taxes. You deserve better. Our state deserves better.
And with the right leadership and the right priorities, we will do better.
Thank you, God bless, and good night.