Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Kinder offers response to State of the State Address

Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder offered the following response to Gov. Jay Nixon's first State of the State Address earlier tonight:

Good Evening. I’m Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder and I’m honored to speak to you from your state capitol.

Our state faces many challenges. These aren’t new challenges, and they won’t be our last. But despite what the future may hold, I believe that as we work together we can make Missouri a better place to call home.

Today, we are faced with many tough decisions. This is a challenge no different than the one faced by families across our state each and everyday: tightening the belt on spending and balancing the checkbook.

You expect your government to be responsible. You expect your elected representatives to find common sense solutions to the problems we face. And you expect that, even if the decisions we make aren’t popular, we will shoot straight. Our party will be honest about the challenges we face, and we will set politics and personality aside to work together for the betterment of our state.

Like many of you, I am a lifelong Missourian. This is our home; the place our families have chosen to go to work, to church and attend school. Our state faces this global economic crisis on better footing than most other states in our union.

The challenges we face here in Missouri aren’t unique. But we face our problems better prepared for the tough road ahead. This is due in large part to the conservative fiscal decisions that we have made over the past few years.

Tonight, Governor Nixon presented to you and your legislators his proposal for next year’s state budget. These are rough economic times, and with that come greater restraint in spending.

But I also know that you’re not only watching tonight to hear about “fiscal discipline” or “balanced budgets.” You listened to what the Governor had to say because you want to know how it affects you and your family.

Republicans will make you this promise: that no matter what you want to call it or how you want to say it, we wont raise taxes on hardworking Missourians. Our message is simple, “No New Taxes.” When the government “of the people” has to balance the budget in a down economy, we should never do that by taking another hard earned dollar out of your wallet.

We must deal with this budget responsibly, and we have taken the first of many steps to do that. Our legislators in the House and Senate will reject pay increases that are normally automatic. It doesn’t make sense for folks at the State Capitol to get a raise while hard working Missourians have lost their jobs.

We will confront Missouri’s job market and job losses head-on. Our state is competing with all other states, and many foreign countries, for jobs. Our number one priority is to make Missouri a state that investors and businesses want to call home.

Our Republican legislators are leading the effort to expand Missouri’s Quality Jobs Act to attract more business to our state. The folks at the Missouri Department of Economic Development are the ones tasked with finding new, innovative ways to brings jobs to our communities. But tonight, the Governor has cut over $23 million from that department. That’s $23 million being taken from future jobs and businesses in Missouri.

We all know that there is no magic bullet to fix these economic problems overnight, but I believe there are better solutions.

Today, legislators are working quickly to pass House Speaker Ron Richard’s “Family Recovery Plan” into law. To create and keep jobs in Missouri, we must first keep businesses in our state. This plan would create financial incentives for companies looking to operate in Missouri. Representative Tim Flook from Liberty is working on legislation to create new job training programs to help hardworking Missourians take on new careers and endeavors in the workplace. And I believe that as we work together, we can bring Missouri back… one job and one healthy company at a time.

We all know that having a job means much more than just a paycheck. Your job means personal dignity, food on the table and a roof over your head. But it also means health care and college tuition for your children and long term care for your parents.

Across this state, many Missourians find themselves unable to afford quality healthcare.

So, let me tell you what Republicans are doing to make sure that you can afford and find quality healthcare in your community. Part of our plan is to continue to expand the network of healthcare centers around the state that treat children from low-income families. Five years ago, when I was leader of the Missouri State Senate, we dramatically increased funding for healthcare centers in our state to treat low-income, uninsured families. This has been an ongoing project to make sure children in all parts of our state can get the healthcare services they need. Now, we have been able to expand healthcare access across this state to almost all children from low-income families within driving distance of their homes.

For many of you, this may be the first time you’ve heard of this program. Your family may qualify for this healthcare coverage based on your income. You can find out more tonight online at, www.mokidscovered.com, that website again is www.MOKidsCovered.com.

We must also provide quality services for our most vulnerable Missourians. This includes better care in nursing homes and hospices across the state. But tonight, the Governor has cut nearly $24 million from the Department of Mental Health; over $7 million from services targeted for developmentally disabled adults. And he has proposed dramatic staffing cuts at mental health centers in our state.

We respectfully oppose these cuts, and it is my hope that through the coming legislative session we can continue to make healthcare more affordable and more accessible for families throughout Missouri.

We must also work to make education after high school more affordable for every child in Missouri. Last week, Governor Nixon announced a plan with Missouri colleges and universities to not cut funding next year if they promised not to raise tuition for college students. This was a promising plan. But tonight, the Governor has cut over $33 million from higher education classrooms in Missouri. It will be a difficult task for Missouri’s colleges and universities to train students for the jobs of tomorrow when they are facing such a tremendous cut.

Over the last few years, we have significantly increased funding for each student in each kindergarten through high school class room in Missouri. But tonight, Governor Nixon has cut over $7 million from the public schools our children attend. This will be tough for schools that already have overcrowded classrooms and many who have had to cut music and art programs.

We all want a better life for Missouri’s children. But to get there, they must have the fundamental skills for the jobs of tomorrow.

I am also concerned that the Governor has decided to withhold nearly $15 million from law enforcement, rescue personnel and first responders throughout our state. We all know that we live in a world of uncertainty. But the citizens of this state should never have to question how equipped we are to keep our communities safe or how prepared we are to deal with an emergency. Last week, the Governor put a hold a state contract to create a statewide radio system that would allow all emergency services to communicate with each other. New York City firefighters were not able to communicate with the police department on September 11. For that reason, many firefighters lost their lives because they never heard the police warning that the building was beginning to crumble. At this very moment, we have the same communication problem in many parts of our state. Your legislators are responsible for making sure that this state remains a safe place to raise a family. Have no doubt; our legislators take that responsibility very seriously.

Finally tonight, I think we all have concerns about the budget message that we’ve just heard. The Governor has proposed a state budget built around the hope of federal stimulus dollars.

What if these dollars don’t arrive? What if we don’t get nearly as much as expected? Can we really spend our way back to prosperity?

Then our entire budget would have been written on a bad check. A budget based on a one time bailout is NO long-term plan. We need an enduring vision for our state’s economy, not a budget propped up on debt that will have to be paid back by our children and grandchildren. But, while we may object to the way this budget was put together, you elected us to find solutions. So, here’s what we’re going to do:

We will ensure that if the Governor DOES pump federal stimulus dollars into Missouri, we will use every single dollar available. There is no reason why folks in California, Illinois or New York should get the tax money that you have worked so hard for. At this hour, we have formed special committees to examine the best way to invest federal money in Missouri.

Next, we will look at programs ranging from defense and education, to energy and transportation. As we examine each area of public services, we will fund programs that will not only benefit Missourian’s today, but will make a lasting impact in the Show-Me State. Because, the decisions we make today are decisions that may be felt for a generation.

One day, your son our daughter might work in this very office in the state capitol, and if they do, I hope they are better situated for a greater future because of the challenging decisions we made here today.

Thank you for taking time out of your evening to participate in this important discussion on how YOUR state government will move forward. The Governor has often said that “budgets are about priorities.” Well, we believe that budgets AND priorities should be about people.

Over the next few days and months we will examine the Governor’s priorities and, whenever possible, will work together to move our state forward for a better tomorrow.

Through hard work, commitment, dedication to the common cause we share, we will work to move our state forward towards a better tomorrow. Remember, we’ve been here before. But with common sense solutions, we will make this state a better place for each of our families.

Thank you, God Bless you and goodnight.

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