Thank you, Legislative Leaders; Judges of the Missouri Supreme Court; Lieutenant Governor Kinder; state officials; members of the General Assembly; members of my cabinet; and my fellow Missourians.
I'd like to thank my wife Georganne, and our sons, Jeremiah and Will, for their strength and support every day.
Because every day, we are reminded that the world we live in can be a dangerous place.
From Afghanistan to Arizona, there is no shortage of violence and conflict.
Fortunately, there is no shortage of heroes ready to step up to defend others, and the freedoms we hold so dear.
One of them is here with us tonight.
Perry Coy is a member of the Greatest Generation.
His acts of bravery during the Second World War earned him three Purple Hearts, the Bronze Star and the Silver Star. And just last month, I was proud to present him with the French government's highest decoration for valor: the Legion of Honor.
Fresh out of Bolivar High School, Perry Coy joined the Army. The Allies had just landed in Normandy, and from the moment he set foot on French soil, he was in the thick of it. He fought through the Ardennes Forest in France and into the heart of the Third Reich.
Along the way, Staff Sergeant Coy braved enemy fire to pull back a wounded medic. And he took out a nest of Nazi gunners raining hellfire on the GIs serving beside him.
Certain, special people take an oath to serve. They may wear the uniform of our armed forces or our police, our firefighters or our state troopers. But they are alike in one fundamental way.
Like Staff Sergeant Coy, they have a spirit that compels them to run toward trouble - not away from it.
They put themselves in harm's way so that we might stay safe.
Out where the ice is thin and the storm rages…where the bombs burst and the bullets fly… that's where you'll find them.
On behalf of every man and woman who has ever worn a uniform of service, will Staff Sergeant Perry Coy please stand and accept the humble thanks of our state.
Perry Coy grew up in the Great Depression, fought the Nazis at the young age of 19, and came through it all an optimist.
With faith in God, faith in the future, and faith in himself, he married his sweetheart, Mary Lou, raised a family and started his own business, right here in Jefferson City.
He personifies the values that have made this nation great in war, and in peace.
And last, but surely not least, optimism.
The faith that no matter how difficult things are today, our best days lie ahead.
Times are tough.
Too many folks can't make ends meet, can't find the jobs they want, or worry they'll lose the jobs they have.
But even in these tough times, I'm optimistic.
I'm optimistic because I know that by working together … focusing on shared values … and putting progress above politics … brighter days are ahead for the Show-Me State.
Together, we're fighting every day, for every job.
We're fighting for every worker who needs a new skill to compete.
We're fighting for every veteran looking for work.
We're fighting for every student who dreams of college and a career.
We're fighting every day for every small business on Main Street.
We're fighting every day for every established business that wants to expand.
And we're fighting every day for every new business that wants to set up shop in the Show-Me State.
My focus is crystal clear.
By fighting every day for every job, we are turning this economy around.
The recession that began three years ago cast a long shadow across our nation.
Millions of Americans are still unemployed.
And while there are signs that our economy is beginning to turn the corner, I won't be satisfied until all Missourians can provide for their families .
How will we do it?
By fighting hard every day for every job.
By making government smarter and more efficient.
By investing in strong communities to attract and keep good jobs, and by balancing our budget without raising taxes.
There are already signs that our hard work and fiscal discipline are paying off.
The number of Missourians filing new unemployment claims is down 17 percent, year over year.
Personal income grew last year, and is expected to keep on growing this year.
November and December revenues were up, indicating that people are cautiously beginning to spend.
That's good news for our economy in the short-term, and bodes well for the long-term.
Make no mistake: the national recession hit Missouri hard.
But after losing jobs back in 2008 and 2009, we turned the corner in 2010, and are poised for job growth this year.
We will continue to be aggressive and relentless, fighting every day for every job. And we'll continue to be aggressive and relentless in making government smarter and more efficient.
We've kept our fiscal house in order with prudent financial controls, rigorous cost reductions, and smarter, more efficient government.
That's earned Missouri a Triple-A credit rating - the best you can get - from all three rating agencies. We're one of the few states in the nation that can make that claim.
It's a big vote of confidence in our state, and saves taxpayers millions of dollars a year in interest.
Compare that to what's going on in other states.
Texas has a $15 billion deficit;
Kansas hiked its sales tax last year;
New Jersey's got a $54 billion pension deficit; and
Illinois just raised personal and corporate income taxes.
Now look at our state.
Fiscal responsibility is a value we share here in the Show-Me State.
With the cuts included in my budget tonight, I will have reduced government spending by more than $1.8 billion since I took office.
I'll have cut state payroll by over 3,300 positions.
All across state government, a leaner workforce is doing more with less.
These decisions are never easy, but they are necessary.
And because we've been frugal, we have money to invest in the things that matter most to Missourians: jobs, education, health care, and law enforcement.
We've also got to grow our economy, creating a climate where the entrepreneurial spirit can thrive.
That spirit is alive and well in Missouri's small businesses that are mighty engines of job growth.
To help them move forward, we eliminated the franchise tax on 16,000 small businesses in 2009.
We created a small business loan fund to spur investment and job growth.
With us tonight are three outstanding Missouri entrepreneurs who are growing their own success.
With a $25,000 small business loan, Kelly Burke bought new equipment at his saw mill in Marionville and hired three more workers. Burke Timber is now a diversified business, producing lumber, hardwood floors, pallets and railroad ties.
Marina Remmers used her small business loan to buy commercial printing equipment. She moved her fledgling design company out of her basement and into a storefront in Bethany - and quadrupled her sales.
Chris Heston in Columbia used his state loans to expand his woodworking business and hire another worker. His wooden toys won a Parents Choice Award in 2010.
America was built on the dreams of solitary self-starters like these, with the moxie to invest in themselves.
Please give these home-grown entrepreneurs a big hand.
Cynics say that such small wins don't add up to much.
Cynics don't build things.
Every job we add matters.
It matters to the person who gets the job.
It matters to their families and communities.
And it matters to Missouri.
Fighting every day for every job, we are turning this economy around.
To compete for 21st Century jobs, we need a highly skilled and well-trained workforce. Our Training for Tomorrow and Caring for Missourians initiatives are preparing thousands more workers for the careers of tomorrow.
We've invested millions in training workers to meet the growing demand in fields like computer technology, clean energy, automotive technology and health care.
Much of that training is taking place at our excellent community colleges, where the link between education and employment has always been strong.
Moberly is training LPNs to become RNs - boosting their earning capacity.
St. Louis is training workers to repair hybrid cars.
Crowder has doubled the number of grads from its EMT program.
We've also invested $40 million in training more than 1,000 doctors, dentists, nurses and other professionals through our Caring for Missourians initiative. With the booming demand for health care, they'll be ready to step into careers the minute they graduate.
That's why this year, I am expanding Caring for Missourians to provide more opportunities for nursing students at our four-year schools.
I ask the Legislature to join me in making this critical investment in our health, and the health of our economy.
Last year, I said that we needed to bring broadband to every corner of our state. We all know that technology drives today's job market. We live in a high-speed, digital world, where the most tech-savvy, early adapters will succeed.
Soon, 88 Missouri counties will be better connected, at faster speeds, to each other and to the world.
High-speed broadband will have a dramatic impact on our economy, and on our quality of life.
It will connect tens of thousands of homes in rural Missouri to a network of vital community services like fire and police, schools and hospitals, libraries and government.
For a family doc in Lancaster, it means real-time access to specialists in St. Louis.
For students in DeKalb County, it will widen the gateway to infinite online resources for research and class work, both at home and at school.
For cattlemen in Texas County, it will bring faster access to new markets in Brazil and Japan.
The competition for federal funds was steep. But our MoBroadbandNow partnership was a stunning success.
More than $260 million will be coming to Missouri, which in turn will generate tens of millions of dollars in new investment, and create thousands of new jobs.
We're fighting every day for jobs for our veterans.
Last summer, I visited our troops in Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan.
And everywhere I went, I heard the same question: "Will there be a job for me when I come home?"
Tonight, I'm pleased to report that our efforts helped hundreds of veterans find jobs last year.
One year ago, I announced the "Show-Me Heroes" job initiative to help our veterans quickly regain their footing in civilian life. More than 1,000 Missouri employers stepped up to take the Show-Me Heroes pledge to give veterans first crack at a job interview.
I'd like to thank each and every employer who took the Show-Me Heroes pledge and hired a veteran, and I urge every employer in our state to do the same.
One of these employers is here tonight.
Tacony Manufacturing, which makes vacuum cleaners in St. James, took the Show-Me pledge and hired three veterans. The company also took advantage of our Work Ready Missouri program, which retrains unemployed workers to compete in today's economy.
Please give a hand to the Show-Me Heroes employers at Tacony: Nancy Montgomery and John Kaido.
Even during these challenging times, we're making steady progress in driving job growth in the short term, and laying the foundation for economic strength in the long term.
Because of our hard work of the past two years, major companies have announced plans to bring thousands of jobs to our state, including:
- 300 jobs at Unisys in St. Louis;
- 400 jobs at Sabreliner in Perryville;
- 500 jobs at Expedia in Springfield;
- 500 jobs at Jet Midwest in Kansas City;
- and 800 jobs at IBM in Columbia.
And there's more.
Nordic Windpower USA, is relocating from California to Kansas City. It plans to invest $16 million and create 200 jobs, making wind turbines that produce clean, renewable energy.
Express Scripts is investing $73 million to expand in St. Louis. That will preserve more than 1,000 jobs, and create 150 more.
Pioneer Hi-Bred has broken ground on a $55 million soybean research plant in New Madrid County, creating 50 new jobs and helping thousands of Missouri farmers grow better beans.
Going forward, we will fight every day to help established Missouri businesses grow, and help new ones take root.
We're going to make things in Missouri, and keep the "P" for products in GDP.
- Boots at Redwing in Potosi;
- Batteries at Energizer in Maryville;
- Windows at Quaker Windows in Freeburg;
- Aluminum at Noranda in Marston;
- Engine parts at Bodine in Troy;
- Bullets and brakes, aircraft and appliances.
And Missouri will keep on building things, and that includes automobiles.
For a hundred years, Missouri has been an automotive state.
The industry pumps billions of dollars into our economy, and supports nearly 26,000 Missouri jobs.
But as I stood here one year ago, those jobs were in peril.
There was real concern that Ford's Claycomo plant might be the latest casualty of the 20-year decline of the U.S. auto industry.
So last summer, I called the General Assembly into special session to strengthen Missouri's automotive industry.
We fought for every man and woman whose job was on the line.
And I'm proud to announce that working together, we won that fight.
Yesterday, I inked a deal with the Ford Motor Company that guarantees thousands of jobs, $400 million of new capital investment, and a bright future for the Ford plant in Claycomo.
With us tonight to celebrate this partnership is Ford's director of strategic planning, Steve Lewis.
Steve, please stand up and say hello.
It sure feels nice to be at the wheel when the U.S. auto industry turns a corner.
Ford's commitment will help keep thousands of hard-working Missourians on the job at Claycomo, and at automotive suppliers in Hannibal, Nixa, Perryville, Joplin, Mexico - and every corner of our state.
And it's proof positive of what we already know: that the best darn workers in America are right here in the Show-Me State.
We've got some here with us tonight. Let's give them all a round of applause.
Missouri's workforce is one of our greatest assets.
And it's one of the reasons companies like Ford want to come to the Show-Me State, and stay in the Show-Me State.
But to be competitive, we constantly need to raise the level of our game.
As I listen to Missouri leaders in business, labor and education, I hear the same thing again and again: "We must make it easier for business to do business in Missouri."
They tell me that while we've made good use of our economic development tools to create jobs in the past, some of our incentives are outdated and need to be replaced.
Even the best tools need sharpening from time to time.
The feedback from our business experts is the foundation of my Compete Missouri jobs initiative. Compete Missouri is focused on providing smarter business incentives to drive job growth, and sharpening our competitive edge.
First, we will consolidate our six current business incentives, and roll them into one. To qualify for these incentives, companies will have to provide good-paying jobs, and give their employees access to health care. For the first time, we'll give an extra bump to established Missouri companies, and offer added incentives to small business owners.
Second, we will roll our three worker training programs into one, and align it with our Compete Missouri incentives. Worker training assistance will be available to businesses as small as Ardent Outdoors, which employs 15 people in Macon, and as large as Boeing, which employs thousands.
Third, my budget for 2012 provides an additional $5 million for job training. That will give employers more resources to maintain a highly skilled workforce, and sharpen their competitive edge.
That's good for business, good for our workers and great for our economy.
Every business in Missouri needs reliable, affordable energy to grow and prosper.
And every Missouri family needs reliable, affordable energy to heat and cool their homes.
In November, I announced a historic agreement that will transform the economy of our state - creating thousands of jobs and benefitting millions of Missouri consumers of electric power.
That agreement put the wheels in motion for the construction of a second, state-of-the-art nuclear power plant in Callaway County.
Missouri has some of the lowest electric rates in the nation. That's attractive to businesses and families. But as our energy needs grow, we need to be looking now for new sources of clean, abundant and affordable power.
Building a second nuclear plant will create thousands of good-paying jobs for all our construction trades: iron and sheet metal workers; carpenters and cement masons; boilermakers and bricklayers; plumbers and pipefitters; teamsters and laborers; electrical workers and operating engineers.
They built Callaway One. And they will build Callaway Two.
As we move ahead on Callaway Two, we must make sure that we protect the interests of Missouri ratepayers - and their pocketbooks . That is why my budget includes more funding for a strong office of public counsel.
Building the next generation of nuclear power plants. Advancing the frontiers of biotechnology. The 21st Century economy is knowledge-based, and the best jobs will belong to those with the best education.
Education is a lifelong journey that begins at birth.
That's why my budget for 2012 provides funding for programs to get our youngsters off to a good start, like First Steps, Head Start, and Early Childhood Special Education.
And we must continue to invest in young minds from the day our children enter their first classrooms, to the day they accept their diplomas.
So even in a difficult year, we will protect our investment in K-12 classrooms.
As you know, states received additional federal funds, to be allocated to school districts this year.
But in spite of receiving this money, some states are making cuts to their K-12 classrooms.
Not in Missouri.
In Missouri, we're partnering with our school districts to allow this money to be used to keep stable funding for our K-12 classrooms - not only for fiscal year 2011, but also for fiscal year 2012.
In the next ten years, Missouri student achievement must rank in the nation's top ten, if we expect to compete for the best jobs in the global economy.
How will we accomplish that?
Hard work, high standards and higher expectations.
It's an ambitious goal.
But as any parent or teacher will tell you, children will rise to meet our expectations.
And we must do more to help students make the leap from high school to college.
For too long, too many excellent Missouri high school students have been unable to get A+ scholarships - through no fault of their own - simply because their schools weren't designated as A+ schools.
That's just not fair.
Every good student in Missouri deserves the opportunity to go to college - whether they live in the urban core in St. Louis or Kansas City, or down a country road in the Bootheel.
I'm talking about students like Alicen Brown and Willie Love.
Alicen is a junior at Southwest High School in Kansas City.
She's the president of the student body, a member of the district's scholars committee and a peer mediator.
She gets good grades and has already taken courses that will count toward her college degree.
But Alicen can't get an A+ scholarship because Southwest High has not been designated an A+ school.
That's just not fair.
Willie Love is a senior at Carnahan High School in St. Louis.
He's a scholar-athlete with honors in baseball, football and basketball.
He's vice-president of a community service club at school, and works with youngsters at the Demetrius Johnson football camp.
Willie's just the kind of young achiever that A+ scholarships are intended to help.
But because his school isn't designated as an A+ school, he can't even apply.
That's just not fair.
Good students like Alicen and Willie deserve an equal opportunity to succeed - no matter what high school they attend.
I call on every member of the legislature to extend our A+ program so that outstanding students all across our state are guaranteed access to A+ college scholarships.
In recognition of their outstanding achievements, please welcome Alicen Brown and Willie Love.
My budget for 2012 also includes millions of dollars for Missouri's most successful college scholarship programs, including:
Bright Flight, to help keep our top students at our excellent Missouri institutions;
Access Missouri, which serves students with the greatest financial need;
and A+, which has helped more than 50,000 students afford and attend college.
And to improve our students' preparation for careers in science and technology, we'll give a $500 bonus to A+ and Access Missouri recipients who score well on Advanced Placement exams in math and science.
Because job prospects and lifetime earnings are tied directly to education, we've got to lift our aspirations for higher education as well.
Today, just 35 percent of Missouri adults hold college degrees.
We need to kick that number up to 60 percent if we want to compete for the best jobs in the new economy.
By bringing the dream of a college education within reach for more Missouri families.
College affordability has been a top priority of mine since Day One.
So while tuition soared by double digits around the nation, Missouri schools kept tuition and fees flat for two years running. Even if some schools impose modest tuition increases next year, we'll have protected Missouri families from the sharp tuition spikes seen in other states.
And the response has been overwhelming. College enrollment jumped by 10,000 students last year, hitting record highs at more than half of Missouri's universities, and boosting applications at all of them.
Balancing the budget without raising taxes.
Investing in our future.
Now let me tell you about what we're doing to make government smarter and more efficient:
- By merging the Highway Patrol and Water Patrol, we've kept the same number of troopers on our roads and waterways with less bureaucracy. Savings to taxpayers: $3 million.
- We've sold government cars, cut mileage reimbursements and used technology to drastically reduce state travel. Savings to taxpayers: close to $7 million in the next two years.
- We've gotten rid of unused office space, consolidated the state health and agriculture labs and renegotiated building leases. Savings to taxpayers: more than $5 million.
- We've cut state energy bills by two percent, on top of last year's 5.6 percent. Savings to taxpayers: $3 million.
- And we've reformed and modernized the state pension system, which will keep it solvent now, and for years to come.
But we must do more this year.
A bi-partisan tax credit commission spent four months reviewing Missouri's 61 tax credit programs. They looked at which credits are giving taxpayers a good return on their investment - and which are not.
I ask the members of the Legislature to allow this commission to present its recommendations at open hearings in the House and Senate.
We should give the commission's report serious and full consideration.
Because Missourians work hard for their money.
We owe it to taxpayers to make sure they get the best bang for their buck.
Balancing the budget without raising taxes.
Investing in the future.
Making government smarter and more efficient.
All of these things are essential to the well-being of our state.
But there are special moments when, touched by the better angels of our Nature, our work rises to meet a higher standard. At those moments, what we do here transforms lives.
January 1, 2011, was a landmark day for thousands of families across Missouri.
That was the day insurance companies had to start providing meaningful coverage for the diagnosis and treatment of children with autism.
Some day, when we look back at our shared history, at the battles won and lost in these chambers, this piece of legislation will be one of our landmarks, as well.
Last October, we took another bold step to help families caring for loved ones with other types of developmental disabilities, like Down Syndrome and cerebral palsy.
The Partnership for Hope is designed to keep families together, and improve their quality of life by providing support for their loved ones at home.
I'd like to introduce you to a young man sitting in the back gallery.
His name is Nick Ayers. He's 31 and lives in Lincoln County with his parents, Russell and Janet.
Nick has cerebral palsy. He can do a lot on his own, but he needs a hand preparing meals, managing personal business, and staying safe.
Janet and Russell want their son to live a full and happy life as an independent member of their community. But as they get older, they worry that keeping up with Nick will become a real challenge.
Like too many Missouri families, the Ayers had been on a waiting list for support services for years … and years…and years. Today, we're providing those services for them, and hundreds more families - at home, at a fraction of the cost of institutional care.
Please join me in welcoming Nick, Janet and Russell Ayers, as representatives of Missouri's life-changing Partnership for Hope.
Last year, we passed historic DWI legislation with strong bipartisan support.
That new law is making our highways safer for everyone.
With us tonight are the superintendent of the Highway Patrol, Colonel Ron Replogle, and Sergeant Blaine Adams from Troop E in Poplar Bluff.
Sergeant Adams has made an amazing 1,060 DWI arrests - more than any other current member of the patrol.
1,060 DWI arrests.
Can you imagine how many lives this one Trooper has saved?
For its exceptional record of educating the public, and protecting Missourians from drunk drivers, the Patrol received the national 2010 Outstanding Law Enforcement Agency Award from Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
Colonel Replogle and Sergeant Adams, on behalf of all the men and women of the Highway Patrol, please stand and accept the gratitude of your state.
But we must do more to protect the health of our citizens.
This year, my budget will provide good nutrition for thousands of house-bound seniors who rely on home-delivered meals.
Our seniors also need help paying for their medicine.
We have a program to help low-income seniors and people with disabilities keep up with the skyrocketing costs of prescription drugs.
The Missouri Rx program is a lifeline for more than 200,000 Missourians every year.
But Missouri Rx is set to expire this summer.
We cannot let that happen.
My budget includes funds for the Missouri Rx program, but the Legislature must extend it.
Nobody should be forced to choose between paying for medicine and putting food on the table.
I urge the members of the General Assembly to reauthorize this vital program and send it to my desk.
There's another piece of the people's business that requires our attention: ethics reform.
The people of Missouri need to know that their elected representatives are working in the public interest - and not for personal gain.
Right now, anyone can write a check for any amount of money, and tip the balance of an election.
That is corrosive to our democracy.
We need to set strict limits on campaign contributions that are undermining the sovereignty of the people, and subverting the fundamental principle of free and fair elections.
We need meaningful ethics reform this year.
In the past year, I've visited businesses and schools, farms and factories, hospitals and veterans homes from Bethany to Bernie, and seen a lot of countryside in between.
One of the many things that make Missouri such a special place to live is our wonderful system of state parks. There's a quiet beauty to Missouri that weaves its own kind of magic.
That may explain why I've never lived anywhere else.
Never wanted to.
Like thousands of Missourians, I grew up hunting and fishing, hiking and canoeing with my Mom and Dad. Georganne and I have continued that outdoor tradition with our family.
While visiting our state parks last year, Georganne and I saw Missouri's first State Parks Youth Corps in action.
At a time when it's been especially tough for young people to find jobs, the State Parks Youth Corps put money in the pockets of more than 1,000 young workers - at no cost to the state.
The National Association of State Park Directors gave our State Parks Youth Corps its top award for innovation in 2010. And I'm pleased to report that the Youth Corps will put hundreds more kids to work in our parks this summer.
Believe me, those young folks worked hard.
We saw them rebuilding stone walls at Roaring River, painting cabins at Montauk, and blazing trails at Cuivre River and Rock Bridge.
And while they were at it, they learned valuable life and work skills:
Show up on time;
Do your best;
and get the job done.
Working outside all summer long, they also gained a new respect and appreciation for Nature.
If you look up in the balcony, you'll see them in their green T-shirts.
Please welcome the members of Missouri's first State Parks Youth Corps.
This is a critical time for Missouri.
The shadows of the recession are lifting.
The bright rays of recovery are gathered on the horizon.
Now, more than ever, Missouri needs its leaders to focus on what is most important:
Making government smarter and more efficient.
Investing in strong communities;
And balancing the budget without raising taxes.
The people of Missouri want problem-solvers, not politicians.
The people of Missouri want results, not rhetoric.
Because as we've seen in Washington, when politicians cling to ideology, and kick common sense to the curb, when they focus on the party line and not the bottom line… nothing gets done.
Missouri is blessed with a long and strong tradition of bipartisanship.
And in Missouri, we get things done.
Because here in the heartland, we share common values and common goals.
We want the opportunity to work hard at work worth doing, whether it's building the next generation of fuel-efficient trucks, or growing better soybeans to feed a hungry world.
We want our children to get a first-rate education that prepares them to compete for the best jobs in the global economy.
We want safe, strong communities where neighbors help neighbors.
We want a vibrant and prosperous economy, where "Made in America" is still the gold standard - whether it's stamped on an F-150 or an F-15.
And we make them both, right here in the Show-Me State.
For as long as I've been a public servant - as a state senator, as attorney general and now, as your governor - my approach has been pretty simple.
Bring folks together.
Hash things out.
Now, we all know the folks in this room have differences of opinion.
And we all know we'll have some disagreements.
But it's worth remembering that we all serve the people of Missouri.
All of your constituents are my constituents… and the common good is our common goal.
I'd like to close tonight with the words of a native son.
He's been a strong and steadfast servant of the people, and a champion for Missouri commerce, education and agriculture for more than 40 years: Senator Christopher S. Bond.
Here's what Kit had to say last month, in his farewell address on the Senate floor:
"In a world today, where enemies are real … it is important to remember there is a lot of real estate between a political opponent and a true enemy.
"There will be issues where people of good conscience cannot come together.
"But never let what cannot be done, interfere with what can be done."
In the days and weeks ahead, let us take those words to heart, and act on them in good faith.
Let us do what can be done… what must be done … for the people of Missouri.
God bless Missouri.
God bless America.
Thank you, and good evening.