Gov. Blunt expresses gratitude to Missouri General Assembly

By Gov. Matt Blunt

I would like to express my sincere gratitude to Missouri’s General Assembly for their work on a productive legislative session for children, families and jobs and their commitment to moving Missouri forward.

We have once again balanced the state’s budget without increasing taxes on Missouri’s working families and without one-time sources of money or accounting gimmicks. This year’s budget has again put education and children first. I have kept my promise to increase funding to Missouri’s classrooms each year I am governor.

Next year’s budget includes $173.4 million additional dollars for elementary and secondary education, and more than $17 million in new state funding for our public colleges and universities.

The budget also includes a 4 percent across-the-board raise for Missouri’s dedicated state employees. We will continue our efforts to make state government more efficient. The budget passed this year is the first budget in eight years with fewer than 60,000 employees.

I am disappointed that the General Assembly failed to reach a consensus on my Lewis and Clark Discovery Initiative, but I look forward to working with the Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority to implement the plan.

The initiative will generate $450 million to enhance learning opportunities for students across Missouri and ensure that our state remains a leader in plant and health sciences. This initiative holds too many promises for our state to let it fall by the wayside. I will continue to work with the loan authority to secure this vital funding for our public colleges and universities.

Like many Missourians, I was appalled by the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that allowed government to take private property for the use and profit of private entities for the sole purpose of increasing revenue. I commend the General Assembly for passing a tough bill that will work to reform the use of eminent domain in our state, and protects the rights of Missouri homeowners.

The statewide E-10 standard passed this year will help push the door open even wider for Missouri’s alternative fuel industry and will also increase our use of cleaner burning fuel, while decreasing prices at the pumps and reducing our dependence on foreign oil.

This standard will provide a boost to our state’s economy and farm families who have invested many years and many dollars in the development of the alternative fuels industry. It is a major step we are undertaking to position Missouri as a leader both in ethanol production and utilization.

One of my top priorities this year was passing a Missouri version of Jessica’s Law to protect our children from violent sexual predators.

The heart of this important legislation is the creation of a mandatory minimum sentence for those who commit the most egregious of all felonies, forcible rape and forcible sodomy against a child younger than 12.

Persons convicted of these crimes will receive a life sentence with a minimum of 30 years served in prison without eligibility for probation or parole. This is a bold step our state has taken to protect our children.

I made a promise during the campaign to lead our state in a new direction. I am happy to say that the accomplishments of this legislative session and last year’s legislative session are improving the quality of life for all Missourians and offer the prospect of a better tomorrow for our state.