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Opinion: Why we must invest in Missouri’s infrastructure

“Our economy is the result of millions of decisions we all make every day about producing, earning, saving, investing, and spending,” is what President Dwight D. Eisenhower once said — and his statement still holds true today.

Around the country, states are bouncing back from the economic recession caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, here in Missouri, there are signs that our economy is moving in the wrong direction. Decades of underinvestment in the infrastructure that serves as the foundation to our economy has stifled the growth of Missouri’s most important industries, but thankfully, Gov. Mike Parson recently signed a bipartisan bill that put the Show-Me State on the right track by making the long-term infrastructure investments we need.

Ray McCarty

Economic struggles aren’t anything new for most Missourians. Government data shows that Missouri’s economy has lagged behind the nation for a decade straight, and researchers at the Show-Me Institute reported that Missouri’s GDP and workforce growth hasn’t been on pace with the rest of the U.S. since Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon over 50 years ago.

Experts agree the anemic growth is a result of years of neglect and underinvestment in basic yet critical infrastructure, including the well-built roads, bridges, and waterways, as well as high-speed broadband that our economy needs.

Unfortunately, our largest industries, manufacturing, and farming simply haven’t been equipped with the infrastructure to sustain and grow a successful economy.

Our manufacturers and farmers simply can’t bring in the goods they require to operate, move the products they want to sell, or even get their employees to work, and our lack of basic broadband has completely left behind one-third of manufacturers and 200,000 acres of farmland in rural Missouri. It’s clear we have to make sustained investments in the right areas to put Missouri on the right path, and thankfully, our state’s leaders have made it clear they’re ready to make that decision and build for long-term success.

Many legislators showed true leadership in passing a bipartisan fuel tax increase for the first time in nearly a quarter-century, and Parson signed that increase into law. Missouri has just started to realize fruits from this effort, investing billions of dollars in the infrastructure we need to move our state in the right direction.

The Missouri Department of Transportation is already planning to revamp the 2,190 dilapidated bridges and 7,576 miles of poorly kept roads that crisscross our state, and the Office of Broadband Development is working to bring high-speed internet access to over 250,000 Missourians. These are the right kind of decisions we want and need in Missouri.

Unfortunately, a handful of our elected officials aren’t on board with these decisions that will guarantee Missouri’s success, and they’re fighting hard to strip our state of the funding we desperately need to fix our crumbling infrastructure.

We simply can’t continue to underinvest in our economy while the rest of the country passes us by. For far too long, our politicians haven’t made the right choices or necessary commitments to Missouri’s growth. Now, more than ever, we need to support the elected leaders dedicated to securing our future. Decisions must be made, so let’s make sure they’re the right ones.