Parson’s State Of The State Heavy On Jobs And Roads — Even As Medicaid Expansion
Updated at 7:05 p.m. Jan. 27 with comments from lawmakers
Gov. Mike Parson used his first State of the State Address since being overwhelmingly elected to a four-year term to double down on his top priorities of his first years in office — improving job training and state transportation.
He also touched on expanding Medicaid under the auspices of the Affordable Care Act, the result of a constitutional amendment that voters approved last year.
“At some point in our lives, many of us have probably been reminded of the importance of considering the past when making decisions for the future,” Parson said. “This advice seems especially fitting given the challenges we have faced over the past year. Missouri has seen some difficult days in the past 200 years: From the Civil War and the Great Depression, women’s suffrage and civil rights, to the COVID-19 crisis and countless other hardships. But through it all, Missouri has prevailed.”
The speech Wednesday, the first delivered during the COVID-19 pandemic, was markedly different from past addresses. The GOP chief executive delivered the State of the State in the Missouri Senate chamber. That comes as a number of lawmakers have contracted COVID-19 over the past few weeks.
Much of Parson’s address, his third State of the State since becoming governor in 2019, honed in on his desire to enhance workforce development and infrastructure programs. That included calling for $21.8 million to train people at two- and four-year colleges for high demand jobs.
Parson also said that over the past year, the Missouri Department of Transportation was able to focus on 550 road projects. MoDOT director Patrick McKenna said before the speech that his agency was able to get more projects completed in 2020 because there were fewer people on the road.
“I have always said that you can’t emphasize workforce development without infrastructure,” Parson said. “They go hand-in-hand, and we must continue to invest in both in order to succeed. Now more than ever, we must capitalize on Missouri’s strategic location in the center of the nation and build on the opportunity to become a powerful logistics hub not only for the Midwest and the United States, but for all of North America.”
He also spent much of his speech discussing his administration’s efforts to ramp up distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine, something that Missouri, and many other states, have struggled with over the past few weeks. Missouri is last in the country in the percentage of first dose of vaccinations given, according to the CDC.
Parson also detailed a number of ways that the administration has dealt with the crisis over the virus.
“We have now shipped over 22 million gowns, 18 million gloves, 8 million surgical masks, 5 million N95 masks, and 1 million face shields to frontline health care providers,” Parson said. “We were one of the first states in the nation to submit our COVID-19 vaccine plan … and have now administered nearly 400,000 doses to Missourians. The bottom line is that we have been working day in and day out to fight COVID-19 while also dealing with civil unrest, violent crime, and a difficult budget.”
He said that one of his major priorities is getting liability protection for businesses against COVID-19 related lawsuits.
“I hope the first piece of legislation to hit my desk this year is a clean COVID-19 liability protection bill,” Parson said. “Missouri businesses, manufacturers, health care providers, schools, churches, and many other entities across the state did not hesitate to step up and help their communities in the fight against COVID-19.”
That proposal got a warm reception from MissourI Chamber of Commerce President Dan Mehan.
“Right now, Missouri employers are completely exposed to this threat. We urge Missouri lawmakers to heed the governor’s call and make stopping COVID-19 lawsuits the first bill passed this session,” Mehan said in a statement.