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JEFFERSON CITY, MO. — Instead of proposing budget cuts in his annual state of the state address, Gov. Mike Parson wants lawmakers to raise salaries, spend more money on education and invest in child care children.

In the governor’s nearly hour-long speech, he praised the state’s approach to the pandemic, saying Missouri’s economy is strong. The state has a historic amount of money at its disposal, and the multi-billion dollar budget includes raising teachers’ salaries.

“We have the opportunity to make fundamental improvements to our state that will serve the people of Missouri now and in the future,” Parson said. “None of this would have been possible without the efforts of the state government to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19.”

Parson praised the state’s surplus money for Missouri’s COVID response, saying leaders made tough decisions but never backed down.

“That’s why we’ve never had state mandates or forced businesses or schools or churches to close,” Parson said. “We have protected lives and livelihoods.”

Over the past week, Missouri has reported more than 62,000 new COVID cases, or about 9,000 new cases per day. “When it comes to the fight against the pandemic, the governor’s hands-off approach continues to exact a heavy toll with new cases breaking records almost daily,” House Minority Leader Crystal Quade told reporters. D-Springfield, after the speech. “Reality is forcing many schools to consider closing as student and teacher absences soar.”

Quade’s own children were inside the Capitol on Wednesday after the Springfield Public School District, the state’s largest, closed for the rest of the week due to the virus.

“Just like so many working parents are currently struggling day to day as schools continue to close,” Quade said.

Parson reiterated on Wednesday; his position will not change.

“We used common sense and took a balanced approach to the pandemic,” Parson said. “I strongly believe that the people should have a say through their local elected officials and not be dictated by unnecessary executive action or by one person.”

Another major element of his speech, the increase in the wages of state employees to 15 dollars an hour and the increase in the salary of teachers.

“Half of our new teachers leave the profession in their fifth year,” Parson said. “This is unacceptable and we need to do better.”

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