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Gov. Parson warns hard budget decisions ahead for Missouri

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KMIZ)

Gov. Mike Parson warned Tuesday of painful budget cuts that will be announced in the coming days and weeks.

Parson, speaking at his regular COVID-19 briefing in the Capitol, warned that the pandemic's hit on state revenue will necessitate those cuts unless the state receives another large influx of federal stimulus.

Watch a replay of the briefing in the media player below.

Parson said some withholding will take place in the next week to 10 days. More state spending will be withheld July 1, the start of the next fiscal year, to balance the budget.

The governor will speak with leaders in K-12 education and higher education Wednesday about what steps might be necessary, Parson said.

"We are a long way away from having the money we need" to meet the budget, Parson said.

Parson's administration has been signaling to educators that significant cuts could be expected for months, and central Missouri institutions have been preparing for those scenarios. The University of Missouri Board of Curators held a meeting Tuesday at which members heard about budget scenarios that include cuts to state funding.

The governor has already withheld $37 million from the UM System in the current budget year.

Parson promised to be open about the budget decisions that are coming from his office.

"As we work through this process I want Missourians to know that we will be transparent as possible," Parson said.

Missouri Department of Revenue Director Ken Zellers joined Parson to highlight his department's work during the pandemic, including the extension of income tax filing to July 15.

The deadline extension has caused a large drop in state revenue compared to last year. The state budget director earlier this month said income tax collections were down more than 60 percent in large part thanks to income and franchise tax collections.

Zellers said the state has processed 2.5 million individual income tax returns -- a drop of about 358,000 compared to this time last year. He chalked up the drop to the delayed filing.

Audrain County case surge

Dr. Randall Williams, head of the state Department of Health and Senior Services, said the state is working with Audrain County authorities and a hog farm in that county where 13 of 16 employees tested positive in recent days for COVID-19.

Much of the attention has been of urban outbreaks during the COVID-19 pandemic, but Parson made it clear that Missouri's rural residents should remain diligent.

"Just because you live in rural Missouri and there have not been a lot of cases out there yet, it doesn't mean you can totally relax and everything will be just fine," Parson said.

However, Parson said the state's trends continue to be positive and Missouri is well on its way to recovery. He said about 10 percent of the approximately 154,000 people tested have been positive for COVID-19.

The state is increasing testing and will soon be running 7,500 tests per day he said. The increase will mean more positive cases but it is critical to successfully reopen the economy.

"The testing that we’re doing today … also prepares us more for this fall," Parson said. "When the school systems open up, when the universities open up, when flu season gets here again …"

Parson also cautioned Missourians to be careful going out during the upcoming Memorial Day weekend.

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Matthew Sanders

Matthew Sanders is the digital content director at ABC 17 News.

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