JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Gov. Mike Parson delivered the annual State of the State address on Wednesday, outlining his administration’s efforts towards improving Missouri’s economy, workforce development and lessening the impact of COVID-19.
Parson pointed out that at the time of the 2021 State of the State address, only a small fraction of Missourians were able to receive the vaccine due to distribution issues and supply shortages. The governor thanked the state agencies who worked to make the vaccine readily available, and noted the fact that 94 percent of Missourians 65 years and up are now vaccinated, and 75 percent of those 18 and up have received at least the first dose.
“No one had a roadmap or a playbook, and we knew we faced difficult times ahead,” Parson said. “Nevertheless, state government accepted the challenge, and prevailed by focusing on fairness in our vaccine distribution efforts. While there will always be endless critics to tell us how we could have done it better, the facts are we were the ones in the arena. We made tough decisions and never cowered down to the challenges we faced.”
Parson has been clear throughout the pandemic that he is against forced masking, vaccine mandates and shutting down local businesses to curb the effects of COVID-19. Instead, he credited “common sense” measures that allowed individuals and businesses to make their own safety decisions.
“Missouri is a diverse state, and a one-size-fits-all approach will never work here,” Parson said. “In this state, we used common sense and took a balanced approach to the pandemic. While that may not seem like a novel idea, when you look at the policies and mandates in other states, you find that common sense may not be so common.
“We never had any state mandates or forced businesses, schools or churches to close in this state. We protected lives, and livelihoods,” he said to a thundering applause.
The governor also credited those “common sense” measures as the driving force behind the state economy’s impeccable recovery from the initial impact of COVID-19. When Missouri had over 380,000 people receiving federal unemployment benefits, Parson acknowledged that something had to be done to improve the state’s falling economy and employment shortages.
As a solution, Parson made the decision to cut off federal unemployment benefits during the pandemic, making Missouri one of the first states to do so. After critics attempted to denounce the decision as “inhumane” to the hundreds of thousands on federal unemployment, they were quickly silenced as Missourians watched the economy grow and unemployment rates shrink.
Only 21,000 individuals currently receive federal unemployment assistance in the state, bringing Missouri’s unemployment rate to a remarkable 3.5%. Not only is that comfortably below the national average of 4.3%, but it’s an even lower unemployment rate than Missouri had before the pandemic.
“This was the right call, and the right thing to do,” Parson said to another resounding applause.
Even after creating thousands of new jobs and building an economy stronger than it was before the pandemic hit, the governor acknowledges there are still staffing shortages across the state that need to be remedied.
“We are finding economic success, but with 116,000 job openings across the state, now more than ever, it’s important to double down on workforce development and skill up our workers to fill these open jobs,” he said. “We can’t be satisfied with the same as before. We must focus on making our state even stronger.”
Missouri’s economic success and impressive recovery is clear when looking at the Show-Me State’s rankings among other states. Missouri ranks first in the nation for on-the-job training and is in the top five in apprenticeships, business tax index, new manufacturing facilities and cost of doing business – all major components of a business-friendly state.
Stemming from the economy’s strength and the state budget surplus, Missourians will also receive a tax cut this year as Parson announced the state’s tax rate is being lowered to 5.3 percent.
Additionally, the governor expressed the importance of trade schools, technical schools and training programs to prepare individuals to enter the workforce and detailed different state programs’ success.
“From the beginning, we challenged the legislature to support workforce development and infrastructure, strengthen our communities and improve government. And we have achieved some historic wins in each of those areas together.”
Missouri’s Fast Track program – a financial aid program that encourages adults to pursue a certificate, degree or industry-recognized credential – has seen a 65% increase in participants over the last year, 50% of whom are first generation college students.
Parson’s administration also revamped Missouri One Start in 2019, a program that assists companies located or expanding in Missouri with staffing, hiring and other employment duties. In only three years, Missouri’s One Start program went from being inactive to ranked ninth in the nation in 2021.
“This session, we must recommit ourselves to helping skill up our workforce, and preparing the next generations for the demands of the future. It has become more important than ever to provide adults with opportunities to learn new skills and develop their career potential.”