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Ask any autoworker in Claycomo or Wentzville about the pride they take in building the next-generation of American-made vehicles, and they’ll tell you it means a lot more than just a paycheck.

For those autoworkers and their families, the work we do here is very real.

Our economic progress is no accident. It’s the result of a clear and unwavering focus on strict fiscal discipline and smart investments.

We’re the Show-Me State, so we developed a strategic plan, and we followed it.

Instead of engaging in Washington-style deficit spending, we kept our fiscal discipline - balancing budgets, cutting waste and keeping taxes low. This past year, all three major rating agencies reaffirmed Missouri’s perfect AAA credit rating.

Tonight, as I have every year, I am proposing a balanced budget that holds the line on taxes - and continues to downsize government, cutting 81 more positions from state payrolls. By the end of this fiscal year, we will have reduced the state workforce by 4,600 full-time employees.

But we didn’t just make government smaller - we made it smarter. We reduced energy use, sold off surplus property and put more state services online. My budget continues to invest in technology to provide Missourians with the efficient, effective, accountable government they deserve.

Keeping our fiscal house in order helped us protect our shared values. We made sure that as we moved our economy forward, we didn’t leave folks behind: a young child with autism, a student working her way through college, a family rebuilding after a natural disaster, or a soldier returning from the frontlines.

Four years ago, we launched Show-Me Heroes to help employers recruit and hire our men and women in uniform. Two years ago, we strengthened it by making sure these veterans also get the training they need. Today, Show-Me Heroes continues to change lives.

I recently visited one of the 3,400 Missouri companies that have taken the Show-Me Heroes pledge. At IBM in Columbia, we recognized the 5,000th veteran employed through this program.

Our veterans fought for us - so we’re going to be there for them.

For every soldier serving our country overseas, there’s a family back here at home - putting on a brave face each day for the kids. Families who, in soldiering on through the loneliness, lend their loved ones strength, lend us all strength - and so it’s important that we honor their sacrifice as well.

Tonight we are joined by Heather Styles and her daughters, Paige and Payton. Heather’s husband of 11 years, Maj. Matthew Styles, is a helicopter pilot on his second deployment to Afghanistan. While he serves our country at war, Heather is holding down the fort at their home here in Jefferson City.

They represent thousands of military families all across our state who are counting down the days while their loved ones are in harm’s way. Please join me in thanking the Styles family for their service and sacrifice, and wishing Major Styles a safe and speedy return home.

Together, we’ve laid a solid foundation that got us through some tough economic times, and has brought us to a defining moment for our state.

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