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Governor Nixon's Remarks on Unemployment and Educational Funding
>>GOVERNOR JAY NIXON: From Day 1 as Governor, I have been focused on two key priorities, creating jobs and managing state government in a fiscally responsible way. We've taken strong steps to reduce the size of government, to make government smarter and more effective and to manage our limited taxpayer resources wisely. This afternoon I need to address some recent developments concerning Missouri's investment in two critical priorities, assistance for Missourian's who are currently looking for work and funding for our K through 12 classrooms.
Let me start by discussing unemployment assistance. Folks who receive unemployment assistance are just like everybody else. These are hardworking men and women, our friends and our neighbors, moms and dads, sons and daughters who have fallen on hard times. Helping them get back on their feet is a responsibility we all share. To qualify for unemployment assistance you've gotta have a job and then lose that job unexpectedly. To qualify, you can't quit. To qualify, you can't get fired for cause. Once you're receiving assistance you have to continue to look for work and check in regularly with a state career center. After two years of tough job losses, Missouri's economy is beginning to head in the right direction. In 2010, we turned the corner on job losses and we ended up the year with a net gain of jobs. State revenues are up and exports are through the roof. We are seeing strong signs of growth and we expect those trends to continue this year. But the reality is that too many Missourians are still out of work. As our economy gains steam it's critical that we continue to stand with these folks and help them get back on their feet. Folks use unemployment assistance to put food on the table, to fill prescriptions, to keep their cars running. These funds are a critical investment in local communities. An investment that leads to new jobs and growth. Unemployed workers in other states will begin receiving those benefits next week. Missouri's unemployed workers deserve their fair share.
This week the Missouri Senate failed to act on legislation that would extend unemployment assistance to Missourians for an additional 20 weeks. This extension would have provided approximately $105 million dollars in additional unemployment assistance to Missourians over the next nine months. Other states have already passed the necessary laws to allow this extension, and here in Missouri the House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted to pass this bill two months ago. Because of the Senate's failure to act, nearly 10,000 Missourians will be cut off from unemployment assistance tomorrow and extended assistance will be denied to about 24,000 other Missourians in the months to come. Now is the time to come together for the good of our state and for the good of our friends and neighbors in need. I call on the Senate to return next week and get this bill to my desk. Unfortunately, because of these delays, there is no way we can prevent some Missourians from temporarily seeing a break in assistance, but we can provide make-up payments later if the Senate passes this bill. The immediate priority must be for the Senate to get this bill to my desk as soon as possible. Meanwhile, for Missourians who are looking for work, I encourage you to visit mo.gov. There you'll find updates for unemployment assistance and additional information about resources the state offers to help you get back on the job.
Now in addition to the Senate's failure to pass this critical legislation, some in that body are also attempting to reject $180 million dollars in critical federal funding for K through 12 classrooms. This is serious. We cannot put the education of Missouri's children at risk. These federal funds are a vital part of a plan I outlined and approved by the House of Representatives overwhelmingly to provide stable funding for our classrooms from fiscal year 2011 to fiscal year 2012. Rejecting these funds would have immediate and harmful impact on Missouri schools. School districts are relying upon on those funds in the supplemental budget to meet payroll and other expenses this school year. The federal law that authorize these education funds was crystal clear. If Missouri turns these funds away they will go to other schools in other states. Meanwhile, Missouri schools will be left frantically finding ways to cut hundreds of thousands of dollars from their budgets in the next few weeks. That is simply unacceptable. Refusal by the Senate to act on the emergency extension of unemployment benefits has heightened the concerns about the state of this funding for Missouri schools. Now, last week I instructed the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to calculate the impact of rejecting these funds on local schools. We have provided those district-by-district documents to you. Clearly, the impact will be felt immediately by schools in every corner of our state.
Now, in preparing the supplemental budget for the fiscal year 2011, my budget recommendations for fiscal year 2012, we developed the strategy to provide consistent funding for classrooms from one year to the next. Again, I call the Senate to move quickly to pass the supplemental budget and allow local schools to begin investing these critical funds. Sending Missouri taxpayer dollars to schools--excuse me--dollar--sending Missouri taxpayer dollars to schools in other states isn't responsible public policy and it simply isn't fair to our teachers or our kids.
At this pivotal moment leaders from both parties must come together to move Missouri forward. Unemployment assistance and public education are two critical responsibilities of state government and two areas where can make a real difference. I thank the House of Representatives for supporting both of these measures in an overwhelming, bi-partisan way, and I urge the Senate to put politics aside to put Missouri working families and Missouri's children first. The people of the Show-Me state deserve nothing less.