Gov. Eric Greitens wants to use newly available funds in rural Missouri. His plan includes investing in rural broadband, clean water initiatives and infrastructure improvements to ports, along with paying debt owed to the biodiesel industry.
These new funds are available due to the unexpected federal reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program. State funds had been set aside to supplement the possible loss of federal funding — and the reauthorization creates an unexpected $80 million investment opportunity over the next two fiscal years.
Greitens’ proposal encourages a $45 million investment in rural broadband over the next two years to bring high-speed internet to businesses and homes without quality access.
Currently, Missouri is without an accurate picture of the state of rural broadband. While some estimates are available, they lack the sophistication and detail necessary to target infrastructure investments in areas with the greatest potential impact. The governor proposes allocating $1 million of those funds for a comprehensive mapping project and to produce an estimate of the total cost of bringing broadband to every home and business in Missouri.
Greitens also proposes creating a Rural Broadband Matching Fund. This fund will provide grants to match private investment for new broadband infrastructure.
The Department of Economic Development’s Rural Broadband Office would invest in projects that either bring new service that meets the Federal Communication Commission’s current broadband benchmarks into areas that do not have it at all, or introduce fiber-optic connections to new areas and are funded primarily by private investment.
Providers that accept grants would do so on the condition that they are subject to a state clawback of the grant funds if the project fails to do the following: produce as much infrastructure or serve as large of an area as the application indicated, consist of the type of infrastructure the application indicated (e.g., cable instead of fiber optics), or provide speeds at the rate the application indicated.
The proposal recommends close to $17.67 million for water initiatives to build the necessary infrastructure to ensure clean water access in rural communities.
• Little Otter Creek, $4 million
• Tri-State-Stockton Lake, $330,000
• St. Robert Waste Water Treatment, roughly $3.34 million
• Multipurpose Water Resources Program, $10 million
Missouri’s waterways allow businesses to move cargo, particularly agricultural products, and offer tremendous economic potential to rural towns. Infrastructure investments in ports allow Missouri to export more goods.
Greitens proposes allocating $14.32 million 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.
Greitens also recommends allocating $3 million to satisfy outstanding obligations to the Missouri Qualified Biodiesel Producer Incentive Fund.
Source: Missouri Governor’s Office