Governor Mike Parson spoke at a Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce virtual event Wednesday, giving a “State of the State” speech that discussed the economic impact of COVID-19.
Parson opened his speech by touting the economic markers of his administration prior to the outbreak of COVID-19.
“We had been very fortunate to have a booming economy, record low unemployment, and high wage growth,” Parson said. “Incomes have gone up. Taxes have gone down. We had at many times more jobs than we had people to fill them.”
Parson noted that economic vitality allowed Missouri legislators to put themselves in a place to prepare for an economic downtown through “conservative” budgeting.
“We have also been able to put forward responsible and conservative budgets to the general assembly,” Parson said. “Last year, we were able to leave $100 million on the bottom line in order to response to any unexpected revenue declines. Knowing what we have been through, we are glad we did.”
Parson said the same mindset was used for next year’s budget.
“But when COVID-19 hit Missouri in March, everything changed,” the Governor said. “At the time, no one knew what to expect.”
The governor listed many of the concerns that Missourians had regarding the ability of hospitals to manage cases, personal protection gear, and not enough ventilators and ICU beds.
“I am so proud of our citizens, Missouri companies, chambers, and communities across the state for doing their part,” Parson said. “Because of you, we have overcome all these obstacles.”
Parson noted that at the start of the pandemic the state could manage about 4,000 COVID-19 tests a week, where the number now is around 90,000. He noted a hotel being converted into a hospital in 10 days by the Army Corps of Engineers and the National Guard.
“We have learned and accomplished so much since March,” Parson said. “And knowing what we know now, we are much better prepared to deal with COVID-19.”
Parson addressed the unemployment situation in the state, noting that in May and June the state recovered about 1/3 of the jobs lost in March and April, and that the June unemployment rate of 7.9% was more than two points lower than in May.
The governor noted the COVID-19 pandemic did expose a problem in the state when it comes to rural broadband internet, which hampered many rural school district’s efforts to provide virtual classes.
“With the challenge posed by COVID-19, access to high speed broadband is more important than ever,” Parson said. He went on to note how the expansion of broadband internet into rural areas can also assist economic recovery.
Parson’s speech also touched on the current special session of the legislature dealing with crime related issues. The governor called on legislators to deal quickly with changes he feels are necessary for the “safety” of Missourians.