The biggest bulk of money under Greitens' plan would go toward rural broadband initiatives.
Missouri leaders are celebrating a plan to use $80 million to invest in rural interests throughout the state.
Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens unveiled his proposals, which include a $45 million investment in rural broadband, $17 million for water initiatives, and more than $14 million for ports. The recommendations were announced Thursday.
The money comes from the federal reauthorization of the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Funding for the federal program had expired in September 2017, but the state had set aside funds to cover that loss of federal funding. The reauthorization of the program created an unexpected $80 million investment opportunity over the next two fiscal years.
“Missouri’s rural communities have been ignored for too long,” Greitens said. “I’m proud to put forward this rural growth plan, because I believe Missourians in rural towns across the state need us to invest in and fight for them.”
The biggest bulk of money under Greitens' plan would go toward rural broadband initiatives. He proposed using $1 million to create a comprehensive broadband mapping system to identify where Internet access is weakest in the state.
“Governor Greitens’ newly proposed investments in statewide broadband and infrastructure initiatives will invigorate Missouri’s rural economy,” said Don Nikodim, Executive Director, Missouri Pork Association. “We applaud the Greitens administration’s efforts to bring jobs and economic growth to our rural communities.”
The broadband recommendation may coincide with an April 2017 announcement Greitens made in rural Monroe County to invest $45 million in broadband initiatives. In the 2017 announcement, Greitens said the money would come from the state and from two different organizations.
The governor has also proposed creating a “Rural Broadband Matching Fund.” This fund will provide grants to match private investment for new broadband infrastructure.
Another $17 million of the $80 million is recommended for water infrastructure projects. None are in Northeast Missouri.
Additionally, the governor has proposed allocating $14,320,464 to priority port projects around the state. Those priority investments would be focused on Pike Lincoln, St. Joseph, Howard Cooper, New Madrid, St. Louis City, Jefferson County, Pemiscot County, and Kansas City ports.
A developing port in Marion County was left off that list.
Many people in rural Missouri circles treated the recommendations with optimism.
“This is a big day for Missourians—both rural and urban. We applaud Governor Greitens’ commitment to investing in infrastructure that will yield benefits for years to come,” said Blake Hurst, president of the Missouri Farm Bureau. “These funds will lead to partnerships that improve the quality of life for citizens in every part of the state and provide vast new economic opportunities in the areas that need it most.”
The governor's recommendations, however, are just that: recommendations. The proposed use of the $80 million must still go through the budgeting process, done by the Missouri General Assembly.
It's unclear if the governor's rural growth plan will jive with legislators. Greitens has often had an icy relationship with members of the House and Senate.
Reach editor Eric Dundon at firstname.lastname@example.org .