Two presentations were made to the senator explaining current community needs.
Monett City Administrator Dennis Pyle described the city's plans for building a $4 million water treatment plant, expanding the runway at the now renamed Monett Regional Airport, construction of a new City Park Casino and a storm room in the Marshall Hill subdivision with a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Blunt wanted to hear more details on the city's flood control plans. Pyle described efforts to build a bypass channel for Kelly Creek, projected to cost around $6.2 million. The largest single expense would entail widening the water flow under the Burlington Northern railroad bridge.
Pyle asked Blunt to speak to the railroad about the city's offer to purchase right of way not used by the railroad. Blunt said his office has occasionally had success in bringing local concerns to the attention of railroad officials.
Another issue of concern to city officials Pyle said is the tax advantage Internet companies presently have over local retail businesses because of the lack of sales tax for online purchases. Blunt said he is one of the sponsors of the bill to establish a uniform tax to level the advantage.
Mike Farquhar, president of EFCO, a Pella company, spoke for Monett's industrial community.
"We are bullish on the economy," Farquhar said. "Although many of the markets we serve are nowhere near the peak size they were prior to the 'great recession,' for most of us the recovery is underway and we're optimistic about the future."
The business community shared three major areas of concern. Farquhar identified the "fiscal cliff" and the lack of Congressional cooperation that led to the looming deadline.
"The lack of clarity around tax and spending policy is absolutely stifling investment from companies and individuals as we wait for our leaders in Washington to lead," Farquhar said.
Healthcare has continued to increase in cost, in addition to uncertainty regarding the regulatory provisions of the Affordable Care Act. Such issues "make us doubt our continued ability to provide healthcare benefits to our team members," Farquhar continued.
The regulatory climate had become "increasingly burdensome" in recent years. Farquhar said businesses, regardless of their size, were spending increasing amounts of time and resources to comply with state and federal demands.
"This hampers our collective ability to grow our sales and profits and, as a result, add new jobs," said Farquhar.
Glen Garrett, chief executive officer of First State Bank of Purdy, added uncertainty has "everyone scared to death." Garrett said he secured $20 million at a fixed rate and his bank made more loans in the last 120 days than had been made in the preceding three years.
"We don't ask for a lot of government assistance around here," Farquhar said, "but we would like it if government would solve the real problems that need to be addressed and then get out of our way. If that would happen, we believe we could provide even more good-paying American jobs in the future as the economic recovery takes off."
Blunt agreed uncertainty had an impact. He said even bad policy offered a degree of consistency. He believed members of Congress would wrestle with tax issues as part of the "fiscal cliff" discussion, and that tax policy on individual rates for 98 percent of Americans would become permanent. He hoped tax rates would not be increased and revenues could still rise. Simplifying the tax code was a strategy he preferred to pursue.
"A divided government is actually a good time to do hard things," Blunt said. "We didn't take advantage of that in the last two years."
Blunt did not want to see the serious issues left for a new Congress in January, 2013. He said no one will understand the issues better than those presently in office.
"Barriers like the cliff don't seem to work very well," Blunt observed. "What's the reason to think that the next barrier will work any better? Things that get cut have a way of coming back in later bills."
Blunt agreed with Farquhar that solutions should address entitlements, where 60 percent of federal spending goes. Solutions were politically possible, as shown by President Ronald Reagan's deal with House Speaker Tip O'Neill over Medicare in 1983, after which Reagan won 49 states in the 1984 election.
One change Blunt envisioned was raising the age for Medicare eligibility because people are living longer.
"The President knows this. We all know we have to do it," Blunt said.
The re-election of President Obama ended the Republican strategy of refusing to fund Obamacare until they figured out an alternative. Blunt said by the time the new healthcare law is fully implemented, it may not be possible to return to the alternative he preferred.
"That leaves a lot of tough Jefferson City decisions," Blunt said.
On regulations, Blunt said a cost benefit is needed for new standards. Without that, he said many communities have been asked to do unreasonable things with their water systems.
"There's a point where dollars and sense don't add up," Blunt said.
Despite the difficulty of working in Washington these days, Blunt said he was optimistic and still liked doing his job.
With 12,000 jobs to 9,000 residents in Monett, by Farquhar's tally, Blunt said he liked telling Monett's story and added, "Nobody in America wouldn't like to have the percentage of jobs you have here,"