Early next week, my team and I will lay out a detailed, thoughtful, and thorough plan to cut taxes on the hardest-working families in our state. It is the boldest state tax reform in America. And with your help, we will lower taxes for working families and make it easier for businesses to come to Missouri and create jobs. And we will do it in a way that is fiscally sound, maintains our state’s triple-A credit rating, and does not burden our children with debt.
In 2018, I want this body to cut taxes for the people of Missouri, and to cut taxes for businesses that create jobs. Let’s get it done.
I’m proud to tell you that we continue to shrink the size of government. In fact, today the government of the state of Missouri is the smallest it’s been in two decades. At the same time, we’ve been improving how government serves our citizens. To do this, we brought in a team of outsiders, with a clear mission: the most effective government at the lowest possible cost.
In the Department of Natural Resources, we discovered a backlog of over 2,000 permit applications that had been submitted by businesses. The backlog was decades old, and in just the last year, the Department sliced it in half. They actually found a permit that a company applied for in 1997. I’m happy to report to you tonight: it’s been approved.
Not only that: they got all of this done while cutting the Department’s size and spending less money, and even with a smaller and leaner department, they still managed to make sure that Missourians have the safest drinking water they’ve had in almost 20 years.
This type of change is happening across government. We found four planes that the government didn’t need, and we sold them off. That also saved taxpayers almost $40,000 a year in maintenance, money the government was paying for planes that nobody was using. We found 30 cars the government didn’t need, and we’re getting rid of them. That’s going to save Missourians over $500,000. Every year, the Governor’s office printed thousands of pages of paper for its annual budget. And every year, many of those big books sat on shelves, unopened and collecting dust. So this year, we are putting the budget online and saving $3,601.50 in printing costs.
We pay attention to dollars, and we pay attention to cents, because we remember: every single dollar this government spends was earned by the hard work of a Missourian, and this is the people’s money.
For us to save dollars and serve citizens, we need to reform state workforce laws that are decades old. Today, government can’t move people to where they will help the most, can’t reward people for good work, and unlike a business, it can’t get rid of poor performers who fail our citizens and fail their colleagues. We need your help to build a common sense government.
Speaking of common sense, our task force did a full audit of the Boards and Commissions in Missouri’s government. They were in bad shape. For example, the state of Missouri has six Child Abuse and Neglect Review Boards. These Boards do important work to protect children across the state of Missouri. Four of the six them weren’t able to hear cases because they didn’t have enough members to meet. We fixed this. Now they’ll be able to get to work to protect our kids.
To serve citizens well, government needs to do fewer things and do them better. For years, people have complained that Missouri government is chock full of redundant and unnecessary and wasteful Boards and Commissions. So our task force did a careful review—Board by Board, Commission by Commission—and recommended the elimination of hundreds of unnecessary government positions. Senator Riddle has introduced a bill that reflects these recommendations, and I urge this body to pass that bill.
That’s how we make government smaller and better. We must also make sure that our public servants serve in the public’s interest. We need to slam shut the door between the legislature and lobbyists, and we need to pass term limits for every state-wide office holder.
In my very first action as Governor, I signed an executive order banning gifts from lobbyists to state employees of the executive branch. A bill that would have done the same thing in the legislature passed the House last year. Thank you to Speaker Richardson and the Representatives who voted for it last year and who already took action on it again this year.
Last year, the bill stalled in the Senate. This year, both bodies need to get together and pass a ban on gifts from lobbyists to the legislature. But in the meantime, I have a simple request: I call on every member of the legislature to join me in a pledge not to accept any gift from lobbyists. Let’s get this done for the people of Missouri.
We promised the people of Missouri that we would support our law enforcement officers and first responders, and that’s what we’ve done.
There’s an officer who, tonight, will step into the cold to keep Missourians safe. The wife of one police officer told our team that, when he leaves for the night, she can’t be sure that he’s home safe until she hears the Velcro of his body armor being taken off. This is what our law enforcement families experience every day.
Last year, some of our law enforcement officers gave their lives in the line of duty. Others were wounded. Last month, I visited the bedside of Officer Ryan O’Connor, after a criminal shot him in the back of the head. The day we went to visit him, as he was lying in a hospital bed just a few feet away, Officer O’Connor’s 17-year-old son, Aiden, told me, that like his grandfather and his father, he too wanted to be a police officer.
Aiden, we want you and young people across the state of Missouri to know that serving your community as a police officer is a proud and noble profession. We’re proud of you.
Last year, together with this body, we passed and signed Blue Alert legislation into law to help bring to justice and strengthen the penalties for anyone who attacks or injures a law enforcement officer. This year, we need to pass legislation that protects the health, safety, and well-being of our firefighters, police officers, and other first responders.
Some of these issues we’ve talked about before. One issue I want to raise tonight is the harassment of police officers. Today, in Missouri, radicals can file liens against a police officer’s house. They can do this in secret, and it can affect the credit of our police officers and their families, costing them thousands of dollars. It’s harassment, and it needs to stop. On behalf of law enforcement officers throughout our state, I’d ask this body to pass a clean version of legislation that protects them from this type of harassment.
Tonight, I want to let the police officers of this state know: your Governor, your fellow citizens, and the vast majority of your elected representatives, we have your back.
We’re also working to build the finest National Guard in the country, and I’m proud to say that we were able to add 800 National Guard jobs this past year. We want Missouri to be the best state in the country for veterans and military families.
We have members of the armed forces who get orders to come to Missouri to serve in places like Whiteman Air Force base and Ft. Leonard Wood. Today, what makes it hard for some of them is that, if their spouse is licensed to work in another state, Missouri may not recognize those licenses. That means, if your spouse has a career in dentistry in Tennessee, and your family is moved to Whiteman Air Force base, they may not be able to work here in Missouri. That needs to change. We need to grant full reciprocity of licenses obtained in other states to military members, veterans, and their spouses.
And there is more. Right now, in the state of Missouri, a small business owner who declares that he or she wants to hire veterans can be sued. That’s right: if you say that you prefer to hire veterans, you could face a lawsuit. That’s wrong. This legislature needs to pass a bill allowing employers to establish a veterans hiring preference. Most states in our country have done this. It’s time for Missouri to do the same.
I had the honor of visiting with the men and women of Missouri’s National Guard when they were serving overseas with US Central Command. The men and women from 1st Battalion, 138th Infantry Regiment, are home now, and I wanted all of you who are here today to be able to say to them: Welcome home, and we’re proud of you. They’re with us tonight, and I’d ask them to stand.
We promised the people of Missouri that we would fight for them. We have, and we will. We promised the people of Missouri we would do different. We have, and we will. We promised the people of Missouri that we would fight for the least among us, the counted out, and the forgotten. We have, and we will.
Tonight, we can look back with pride and look forward with confidence. We have come far in a year, and though we have a long way to go, the state of our state today reflects what the state of our people has always been: Missouri is strong, and she is getting stronger.
Thank you very much. God bless you, and God bless the people of Missouri.