Governor Matt Blunt Governor Blunt used the theme of "change is working" to defend controversial budget cuts when he began his administration and to assert the state has moved forward under his leadership during the annual State of the State address .

Barely into a 50 minute speech before a joint session of the legislature, Blunt blasted the previous administration of Governor Holden by declaring, "Only four years ago, bad public policy was causing our state to lose jobs at an alarming and unacceptable rate. Business-as-usual in the state Capitol was hurting Missouri families."

Blunt insisted that the state economy is growing, schools have improved, and the health care system has been transformed.

"We will not go back to the old-way," Blunt told lawmakers, "We will continue on our changed course. The budget I submit tonight reduces taxes; helps thousands of working Missouri families afford their own health insurance; supports law enforcement; and continues to increase our investment in education. My budget will increase opportunity and reduce taxes."

Blunt has proposed increasing basic school funding by $121 million and support of state colleges by $40 million. He has also proposed a four-fold increase in college scholarships through the Access Missouri program, increasing its budget from $25 million to $100 million.

On taxes, Blunt urged lawmakers to send to a vote of the people a constitutional amendment forbidding judges from imposing tax increases. He proposed mandatory levy rollbacks to offset the natural tax increases that occur with property re-assessment.

Blunt strongly defended his change in the state Medicaid program, "Unlike the old system, HealthNet is about results. The old system treated people like numbers. HealthNet treats people as valued patients."

The governor also touted Insure Missouri, his program to make health insurance more affordable to more Missourians. Blunt said that Insure Missouri would take existing resources and help Missourians buy their own personal health insurance.

Blunt also proposed eliminating the state income tax on military pensions, providing incentives for alternative fuels, and imposing the death penalty on anyone convicted of raping a child.

One of the more meaty portions of the speech came at the end. Blunt outlined a serious of steps to crackdown on illegal immigration.

"Missouri is already taking some of the strongest steps in the United States to curb illegal immigration, but we can and should be doing more," Blunt said, "Missourians should know that I will do everything I can to combat illegal immigration, to protect their safety, to defend their hard-earned tax dollars, to protect their jobs and to enforce the rule of law."

Attorney General Jay Nixon, the top Democrat running for governor this year, delivered the Democratic response to the State of the State address. [ Photo by Bill Greenblatt, UPI ]

Download/listen Gov. Blunt State of the State speech (50 min MP3)