U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt voiced support Wednesday for providing federal funding to renovate Temple Hall on the campus of Missouri State University.
Blunt spoke after touring Temple Hall, the home of Missouri State University’s College of Natural and Applied Sciences, where he found a building that has outlived its usefulness in its present form, college officials say.
Temple Hall opened in 1971, and 50 years later, the student population has grown and even the nature of scientific study has changed.
Blunt said he learned the college had about 1,000 majors when it opened, and now there are about 2,400.
“I think about 9,000 students go through that building every year to take basic science classes,” he said.
At its meeting tomorrow, the MSU Board of Governors will vote on a $4.1 million contract to renovate the building. Blunt spoke in favor of providing federal funding, with a mix of state and local dollars, to complete the project.
“We’re really going to look at that,” Blunt said of a federal appropriation.
With more funding, Blunt said, the building could produce more students and better scientific results.
Blunt also talked about national issues during his visit.
Blunt, a Republican, has introduced the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act with Democratic Sen. Martin Heinrich of New Mexico. The $1.4 billion legislation would provide $20 million to Missouri, and the bill has the bipartisan support of 28 co-sponsors, Blunt said. He added that 49 states are on board, with details being discussed with Alaska, where the issue also must be worked out with tribal governments.
“It’s really designed to keep the federal government out of landowners’ property,” said Blunt.
He added this should be particularly popular in the Ozarks, where people feel they should be able to use their property as they see fit.
Blunt said the bill would provide protections for wildlife and plant life, with each state crafting its own restoration plan. The goal is to protect species before they become threatened, he said.
Blunt put in a plug for traditional infrastructure upgrades – that is, for repairs to roads and bridges, as well as airports, ports and inland waterways.
He included broadband among infrastructure needs in the state and nation.
“Everyone, if they didn’t know it before COVID, now understands the importance of being connected,” he said.
Sewer systems put in right after the Civil War and lead pipes underground also are pressing concerns, he said.
He signaled his continued opposition, along with his party, to funding what is sometimes referred to as human infrastructure, which he equated with entitlement programs.
Congress is simultaneously working through two infrastructure bills – a bipartisan bill that includes investments in conventional infrastructure as well as public transit and electric vehicle charging, and a Democrat-backed social infrastructure bill that invests in social infrastructure, including paid leave, child care, education and climate initiatives.
Blunt is working on measures to improve health care, including mental health care, via telemedicine. He said MSU students are a good example of a population that would benefit from being able to access telehealth, even if their physician is across state lines.
Blunt stressed that he has long been a proponent of treating behavioral health matters just like any other health consideration.
“I think we have to look at mental health as an overall health concern,” he said.
A recent survey of Greene County residents ranked their desires for the use of tens of millions of dollars in American Rescue Plan Act funds allocated to the county, and respondents put mental health as their top concern, followed closely by affordable housing and services to the unhoused.
“If you can deal with people’s behavioral health issues … that has a big impact on the homeless population,” he said.
Blunt, the top Republican on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies, on Sept. 30 announced $25 million in federal grant funding for seven community mental health centers in the state, including $5 million for Springfield-based Burrell Behavioral Health.
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