Missouri’s governor delivered an unprecedented State of the State Address on Wednesday afternoon in Jefferson City, in the Missouri Senate chamber.
Missouri House and Senate GOP leaders announced earlier in the day that the governor would deliver the speech in the Senate chamber. The speech is always delivered in the Missouri House chamber, across the Rotunda. House Speaker Rob Vescovo, R-Arnold, Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, and other legislative leaders say the speech was moved from the House chamber to ensure that attendees could meet CDC guidelines recommending six feet of social distancing.
The leaders say this temporary relocation maximized safety while still honoring the tradition of an in-person address by the governor. Senate Majority Leader Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, tells Missourinet that everyone has to be flexible and that the pandemic is no respector of precedents, so they adjusted.
Governor Parson spoke from the Senate dais, for about 42 minutes. While COVID was a major theme of the address, the governor also discussed Medicaid expansion, state employee pay raises and the importance of early childhood programs.
While he campaigned against the August Medicaid expansion ballot measure, the governor pledges to move forward with its implementation, because voters approved it.
“Like I have said many times, I will always uphold the will of the voters, and we will move forward with expanding Medicaid coverage to approximately 275,000 Missourians. However, it is important to remember that the costs of this expansion will be significant- hundreds of millions of dollars, in fact,” Parson tells lawmakers.
Medicaid is formally called MO HealthNet. It’s a federal and state program that assists with medical costs for residents with limited incomes. 53 percent of Missouri voters approved Medicaid expansion in August. Amendment Two expands Medicaid for residents between the ages of 19 and 64 with an income level at or below 133 percent of the federal poverty level. Medicaid expansion supporters say the measure will provide healthcare to Missourians who earn less than $18,000 annually.
Leader Rowden says Medicaid expansion will be implemented, because voters approved it. But like the governor, he says it will cost millions of dollars.
The governor also emphasized COVID during his speech, emphasizing the importance of expanding the state supply of personal protective equipment (PPE).
Governor Parson says Missouri has now shipped more than 22 million gowns, 18 million gloves, eight million surgical masks and one million face shields to frontline health care providers.
“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,” Parson says.
The governor’s call for a two percent pay raise for state employees received bipartisan applause on Wednesday.
“Unfortunately, our state workforce is one of the least competitive in terms of attracting future public servants,” the governor tells lawmakers.
Missouri has about 52,800 state employees, and more than 14,000 of them work in mid-Missouri’s Cole County. State employee pay raises are a big issues here, because state government is Jefferson City’s largest employer.
Governor Parson is also calling on lawmakers to approve his proposal to consolidate several different programs into a new Office of Childhood.
“This new office will not only help streamline the operation of several state programs, but also allow us to place a bigger focus on early childhood development – a critical component to the future success of Missourians for generations to come,” says Parson.
State Sen. Barbara Washington, D-Kansas City, appeared live on Missourinet, after the State of the State address. While she likes the emphasis on early childhood development, Senator Washington wants to learn details about the proposal.
Governor Parson has called a Thursday press conference at the Statehouse in Jefferson City to outline details of the proposed new Office of Childhood. He’ll be joined by state Department of Elementary and Secondary (DESE) Commissioner Dr. Margie Vandeven, state Department of Health and Senior Services Dr. Randall Williams and Department of Social Services Acting Director Jennifer Tidball.
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