Gov. Jay Nixon delivers his 2015 State of the State address
JEFFERSON CITY - Governor Jay Nixon delivered the 2015 State of the State address at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the state capitol.
Regarding improving the state, Nixon said, "We must work together." He added, "If we are mired in partisanship, not much gets done."
The 2016 budget Nixon proposed includes resources to modernize and improve the state's veterans' homes.
"For their courage and sacrifice, our veterans deserve more than gratitude," Nixon said. "They deserve to live with dignity and pride."
Nixon said it's unacceptable nearly 2,000 Missouri veterans are on a waiting list to get the care they have earned. Nixon added this is why he is proposing the construction of a new veterans' home within Missouri.
The governor then addressed fiscal discipline and economic growth within Missouri saying in 2014 the legislature took the first step by passing additional bonding capacity. Nixon said that means this year improvements to college campuses, state buildings, state parks and veterans' homes could be possible through the funding of a strategic bond issuance.
"That means more jobs. That means better labs for more students. That means taking care of more veterans," Nixon said. "Let's get it done."
Nixon said the Missouri government has been made smarter by embracing technology, even though Missourians are now able to access hundreds of government services from their smart phones, Nixon said technology has also created serious security challenges.
Due to the various security threats, Nixon said, "This year, we will ramp up our cyber-security efforts by partnering with businesses, law enforcement, and universities to identify best practices and educate the public."
Nixon said he wants to make Missouri a leader in cyber-security to make, "...families and personal information safer, create more jobs in our tech sector, and strengthen our growing economy."
Not only does the Governor want to make Missouri a leader in cyber-security, he also wants to make Missouri a leader in economic growth. Nixon said Missouri employers created more jobs in 2014 than in any year since 1997. He also noted the economic development projects occurring around the state to enhance job growth.
JOBS AND ECONOMY
"The largest economic development project in our history is underway in Kansas City," Nixon said. "Cerner's $4.4 billion campus for 16,000 workers in high-tech health care."
Another way Missouri is creating more jobs at home, Nixon said, is by selling more Missouri products to Brazil, England, China, Taiwan, France, Korea, Canada and others.
"Last year, our exports hit $14 billion," Nixon said. "That's $14 billion of Made-in-Missouri products going all over the world."
Nixon accredited most of Missouri's economic success to its number one industry, which Nixon said is, agriculture. He added there are 11 million other potential customers for Missouri farm products in Cuba. Nixon said he is also proposing $1.2 million for research to make the cattle industry more profitable.
Nixon said, "With the right strategy on beef, we can strengthen our rural economy, and the families and communities that depend upon it."
Nixon said money for Missouri's roads and bridges is drying up, and Missouri will barely be able to patch potholes statewide.
"Missouri has the seventh-largest highway system in the nation," Nixon said. "But we rank 46th in how much we invest to maintain it."
Nixon said one option is a toll road on Interstate 70. Another option is a gas tax.
"Trucks and out-of-state vehicles that do the most damage to I-70 would have to pay their fair share," Nixon said. " [And] Missouri's gas tax hasn't gone up a penny in nearly 20 years."
On Ferguson, Nixon said, "The events in Ferguson following the death of Michael Brown sparked a national conversation about race and equality, education and economic opportunity, law enforcement and the courts."
Nixon said meaningful steps have already taken place in Ferguson, such as: providing loans to help small businesses recover, investing $2.5 million to improve West Florissant Avenue, the creation of the Office of Community Engagement and the Ferguson Commission.
Nixon said, "The legacy of Ferguson will be determined by what we do next, to foster healing and hope, and the changes we make to strengthen all of our communities."
To foster change, Nixon said there are still many systematic changes that need to occur within Ferguson.
Nixon said education is the great equalizer and will promote equality and economic opportunity. Which is why he said he increased funding and raised the expectations with more rigorous classes, tougher tests and stricter accountability.
He said, "Where our public schools thrive, our communities thrive."
Nixon said his 2016 budget will invest an additional $11 million in pre-school, an additional $150 million for local public schools and will provide start-up grants to expand Project Lead the Way to another 350 elementary schools. He is also proposing an additional $25 million for colleges and universities, based on strong performance standards.
PRESERVATION OF RESOURCES
Nixon's 2016 budget also includes $70 million to rebuild aging water systems. This, he said, has already been approved by voters and the legislature.
"Our rivers and streams are part of the priceless outdoor heritage all Missourians can enjoy," Nixon said.
Nixon also spoke about the 87 state parks and historic sites that need to be updated and renovated to preserve historic structures built by the Civilian Conservation Corps.
Nixon said Missouri taxpayer dollars have reformed and improved other states Medicaid systems, but the time is right to now improve and expand Missouri's own Medicaid system.
"Let's work together, rise above the same old partisan fights of years ago and strengthen and reform Medicaid this year," Nixon said.
He also said where Missouri tax dollars have gone, health care jobs have followed, but he said jobs in health care are not growing like they should.
"Hospitals and clinics have closed," Nixon said. "And if we don't take action, more will follow."
Nixon said many Missourians have grown cynical about the state government's ability to help them better their own lives. He asked, "What good are we to the people who elected us, if they can't trust us to represent their best interests?"
Nixon said, "No more excuses. Let's get a meaningful ethics reform bill to my desk."
Nixon ended his address by complimenting the growth in the automotive manufacturing industry and reiterating why the state works best when everyone has an opportunity to succeed.
"Working together we will build a stronger Missouri for everyone and leave our great state a better place than we found it," Nixon said. "Our time is short...let's make the most of it."