In the past three years, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, and the states of Texas and Washington have established WGU in their states. And starting this year, we will begin enrolling students at WGU-Missouri.
We'll be helping Missourians who never finished college, who are underemployed and who need degrees to move up, reach their full potential. Now that's a mission we can all get behind.
Throughout state government, we've applied business principles to make the most efficient use of taxpayer dollars. Cutting waste. Doing more with less. Making better use of technology.
And as a result, the state workforce is now the smallest it has been in 19 years. From the time I became Governor to the end of Fiscal Year 2014, we will have reduced the size of state government by 4,500 positions, and cut $1.8 billion in state spending.
We've sharply cut energy use, sold off surplus property and reduced leased space.
We've put more state services online - from license plates to child support.
And in addition to applying business principles to make state government more efficient, we must use those same principles to make government more business friendly.
Now, Missouri's already rated one of the Top-Ten best states to do business, because of things like our low tax rates, low workers comp rates, low energy costs and strong workforce. But talk to small business owners and they'll tell you: there's still too much red tape. Too many bureaucratic hurdles. We hear those concerns, and we're doing something about it.
First, we need to streamline Missouri's economic incentive programs - and there are a lot of them - so that they're easier to use and understand.
Second, we need to simplify our convoluted environmental permitting process. Currently, business owners have to go to as many as six commissions at the Department of Natural Resources to get permits. And that's before they turn the first shovel of dirt. We need to consolidate those commissions into one, to help businesses grow and create jobs.
And while we're at it, I propose that we eliminate another ten commissions at DNR that are redundant and unnecessary. We can take common-sense steps to cut red tape for businesses - without backing off our commitment to protecting our air, land and water.
We also must address the Second Injury Fund.
This year, let's work together and solve this issue for the benefit of Missouri workers and employers.
In a highly competitive global economy, employers need access to a highly skilled, well-trained workforce. That's why I've made it a top priority to give Missouri workers the skills they need to compete for the jobs of tomorrow.
Since I've been in office, we've dramatically increased our investment in worker training, helping 150,000 Missouri workers sharpen their skills and get better jobs in their field. So once again, my budget increases funding for workforce training that's custom-tailored to the needs of Missouri employers.
Investing in Missouri workers' skills - that's real economic development. But job training doesn't just happen in the classroom or on the work site. Some of Missouri's best workers got their training serving us in the armed forces.
Helping our veterans get work when they come home is not only honorable and patriotic, it's good for Missouri businesses. If you're looking for an employee who shows up early, stays late, works hard all day and knows how to overcome adversity - hire a veteran.
In 2010, we launched Show-Me Heroes. We've asked every employer in the state to reach out, recruit and interview veterans first for new job openings.
I'd like to thank all the legislators in this room who helped us strengthen this program by adding job training, so our veterans can re-enter the civilian workforce quickly and be even more successful on the job.
More than 2,700 employers have signed the Show-Me Heroes pledge, putting more than 4,000 of our proud Missouri veterans to work.
And tonight, again, I call on every Missouri business to go to our website - MO.gov - and take the Show-Me Heroes pledge.