As a nation, this past weekend we reflected and remembered the nearly 3,000 lives that were lost 20 years ago on a Tuesday in September that is now simply known as 9/11. It was on that day that a group of terrorists acted to induce fear and panic in the citizens of the United States, but instead served to rally the American people to the cause of fighting terrorism wherever it may exist.
As a people we struggled to comprehend the horrifying images we saw on our televisions that day, but we also found an inner resolve to push aside the shock and the horror to come together as Americans. As President George W. Bush said in his address to the nation, "This is a day when all Americans from every walk of life unite in our resolve for justice and peace. America has stood down enemies before, and we will do so this time. None of us will ever forget this day. Yet, we go forward to defend freedom and all that is good and just in our world."
Twenty years later, the people of this great nation continue to hold in their hearts the memory of the tragic attack that took the lives of far too many. And even as we see the tragic missteps that have led to the loss of more life as our troops withdraw from Afghanistan, we are again reminded of the immense heroism that inhabits the spirits of our soldiers and all those who have fought so hard in the war on terror. Our nation is the greatest on Earth because of the willingness of these patriots to answer the call to duty.
During the remembrance of 9/11, people in all parts of the country took time to remember and honor the men, women, and children whose lives were lost due to this cowardly act. The anniversary of 9/11 is also an important time to pay tribute to the heroes serving in the armed forces, and in law enforcement, who work to protect the peace each and every day.
It's a day for Americans to reaffirm their commitment to continuing, and fighting for, the dream of this nation's founding fathers to have a land of freedom and opportunity. Despite the efforts of those terrorists, the dream lives on even stronger now today.
September 11 is also a time to pay special tribute to the many first responders who risked their lives on that fateful day, and to acknowledge all the emergency responders who continue to protect and serve the American people today. The terrorist attacks 20 years ago represent the deadliest incident for firefighters and law enforcement officers in United States history.
The day resulted in the deaths of 343 firefighters and 72 law enforcement officers. These men and women deserve to be honored and remembered by the American people for the ultimate sacrifice they made in an effort to save the lives of those in harm's way.
In Missouri the efforts of emergency responders are recognized with Emergency Personnel Appreciation Day, which takes place each year on 9/11. The day is meant to acknowledge, with special gratitude and profound respect, all public safety personnel, including police, firefighters, ambulance personnel, emergency dispatchers, and corrections officers. Missourians everywhere are encouraged to devote some portion of the day to recognition and solemn contemplation of the sacrifices undertaken by emergency personnel in performance of their duties.
Missouri revenue numbers continue to hold steady
The state continues to receive encouraging news in regard to economic activity. While general revenue collections were down slightly for the month of August, the state remains on track to collect sufficient revenue to fully fund the Fiscal Year 2022 state operating budget.
The state's August collections for 2021 came in at $962.2 million which is down slightly from the $991.6 million collected in August of last year. For the fiscal year to date, the state is also down with total collections coming in at $1.66 billion. The state had collected $2.15 billion at the same time last year.
The drop in revenue collection was anticipated because last year's numbers were inflated as the tax deadline was moved from April to July and many Missourians paid their taxes later than usual. The decrease in this year's numbers is the result of fewer individual income tax collections and fewer corporate income and franchise tax collections in July and August.
The good news is Missouri continues to see increases in sales and use tax collections, which indicate increased economic activity. For August, sales and use tax collections were up by 29.4 percent. For the fiscal year to date, collections are up by 23.9 percent.
The state budget director for Missouri said, "The Missouri economy is still performing well and revenues are, even though they're down for the year, they're actually pretty strong when you look at them in the right context."
Missouri Office of Childhood now providing assistance to children and families
On Aug. 28 the new Office of Childhood officially began work in Missouri to ensure children and families across the state have better access to more consistent, quality programs and services. The new office was created by an executive order issued by the governor that consolidated several early childhood programs across state government into a single office.
Missouri's previous early childhood system had been ranked 45th in governance by the Bipartisan Policy Center, which made the system one of the least coordinated in the country. Knowing that early childhood education delivers one of the greatest returns on investment of taxpayer dollars, state leaders sought solutions to strengthen Missouri's system.
The move to one office gives Missouri an improved structure to support, coordinate, and monitor programs and activities, including an enhanced ability to share goals and best practices across programs. The change is meant to promote effectiveness, excellence, and equity for Missouri children.
At the time the new office was announced, Governor Parson said, "Missouri families deserve the best early childhood system our state can provide. This is also a critical area of workforce development for our state. We must see to it that the workforce of tomorrow starts off on the right foot, and that means better support for Missouri children and their families."
The Office of Childhood consists of approximately 145 employees across the state. The office has a Fiscal Year 2022 budget of approximately $660 million. For more information on the new office, please visit https://earlyconnections.mo.gov/who-we-are/new-office-childhood.
College Savings Month kicks off
Sept. 1 marked the beginning of College Savings Month to encourage Missourians to start saving for college now. State Treasurer Scott Fitzpatrick has joined with the Missouri Department of Higher Education & Workforce Development (MDHEWD) to encourage savings for education.
Treasurer Fitzpatrick said, "Data demonstrates that having an education savings account makes it more likely a child will attend a higher education institution. Data also shows that education influences socioeconomic mobility. This is why I have worked to lower accounts fees and to make MOST 529 as versatile as possible. Regardless of what higher education looks like for you — college, trade school, an apprenticeship — being financially prepared is necessary to avoid burdensome debt down the road."
In partnership with Sallie Mae and the MOST 529 Education Plan, Treasurer Fitzpatrick and MDHEWD will host a webinar providing information about saving for higher education and finding scholarship opportunities. How to Find Free Money and Save for College will take place on Tuesday, Sept. 21 at 6 p.m.
The free virtual event will feature speakers from Sallie Mae, a nationwide consumer banking institution specializing in private student loans, and MOST, Missouri's 529 Education Plan. Those who wish to participate can register at https://ascensus.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_330RHUExRMSmLeZt5mGd_w.
MOST, Missouri's 529 Education Plan, is a tax-advantaged savings plan for education expenses. Money in MOST accounts can be used to pay for K-12 tuition and apprenticeships, trade, college, and graduate school tuition and expenses. Contributions are eligible for state tax deductions, which can save families up to $864 a year, and assets in MOST 529 accounts grow tax-free.
More information about MOST 529 can be found missourimost.org. Missourians can also visit the treasurer's Financial Literacy Portal for information about saving for higher education and paying for higher education. The Financial Literacy Portal can be accessed at https://treasurer.mo.gov/financial-literacy/.
My best to all of you!