Meramec Region’s county officials seek support for high-speed Internet accessibility to all residents

Express concerns on unfunded mandates, seek greater federal emphasis on core foundations of education

By Buck Collier, Special Correspondent
Posted 3/31/21

HERMANN — County government officials within the Meramec Region are calling on federal lawmakers to make high-speed Internet service available to all residents, a factor they see as critical to …

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Meramec Region’s county officials seek support for high-speed Internet accessibility to all residents

Express concerns on unfunded mandates, seek greater federal emphasis on core foundations of education

Posted

HERMANN — County government officials within the Meramec Region are calling on federal lawmakers to make high-speed Internet service available to all residents, a factor they see as critical to local economic and community development.

Other items contained in the region’s annual list of federal priorities are familiar to many residents — eliminating unfunded mandates by the federal government, fully funding federal community and economic development programs, protecting Medicare and Social Security and ensuring that rural regions receive adequate resources and equitable access to to homeland security and emergency preparedness programs.

The list of federal priorities is the collective effort of the eight counties within the Meramec Region. The list was adopted  by the Board of Directors of the Meramec Regional Planning Commission. Gasconade County Presiding Commissioner Larry Miskel, R-Hermann, is the board chairman. Miskel announced the list of priorities at Thursday’s session of the Gasconade County Commission.

MRPC board members and Executive Director Bonnie Prigge traditionally make a pilgrimage to Washington, D.C., to present the list to Missouri’s U.S. Senators and the Meramec Region’s members in the U.S. House of Representatives. But because of the coronavirus pandemic, the presentation could not be made in person.

Under the Education heading, MRPC is asking federal legislators to place a greater emphasis on the basics of education — reading, writing, math and science. Also, the county officials encourage a greater emphasis on reading and writing as the subjects relate to STEAM – Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics.

Another priority for local officials is the continuation of tax-exempt status for municipal bonds.

“Tax-exempt financing used by both state and local governments to raise funds to finance public capital improvements, is critical to sustain economic growth,” the MRPC document said. The regional planning commission is concerned that the U.S. Senate Finance Committee is considering eliminating the tax-exempt status for municipal bonds as part of overall tax reform.

Regarding Transportation, MRPC urges continued efforts to have the Federal Highway Administration to include low-water crossings as eligible for funding; or, in the alternative, change the definition of “bridge” to include low-water crossings. There are many low-water crossings in Gasconade and the other seven counties in the Meramec Region.

One item in the priority list is of particular interest to rural hospitals such as Hermann Area District Hospital. MRPC is calling for equalized Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement rates for rural and urban hospitals. Lower rates to rural hospitals are cited as a significant factor for many of the hospitals being in dire financial straits.

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