JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KMIZ)
Missouri will start the next fiscal year with more than $448 million restricted from its budget.
Gov. Mike Parson unveiled his restrictions and line-item budget vetoes at his COVID-19 briefing Tuesday, the day before the start of the 2021 fiscal year. Parson said revenue has dipped about 7 percent in the 2020 fiscal year that ends Tuesday as COVID-19 dragged down the economy.
Watch a replay of the briefing in the player below.
The cuts to the coming budget are meant to anticipate further revenue shortfalls.
"We feel that the amount we restricted is sufficient to balance the budget based on projections," state Budget Director Dan Haug said at the briefing.
Haug said in response to a reporter's question that about 500 state jobs will be eliminated, including about 300 that are currently filled. That's out of a workforce of about 50,000, Haug said.
One of the biggest chunks of the savings is $123 million from funding for K-12 education. Parson also withheld about $28 million from higher education.
Parson said his administration has been in communication with education officials about the coming cuts.
The pandemic has forced some hard decisions, Parson said.
"We began this year anticipating strong economic growth and we based our budget on that growth," Parson said. "But as everyone is well aware of, COVID-19 has severely impacted our economy and our expectations.”
Revenue finished the year almost $1 billion below the January forecast, he said.
In addition to the restrictions, Parson vetoed 17 line items worth $11 million.
Haug said the economic downturn the pandemic has caused is the worst he's seen in 25 years of working with state budgets, hitting revenue harder than even the Great Recession.
Both K-12 education and higher education will receive the same funding they ended up with in fiscal 2020, Haug said.
Most federal funds sent to states as part of the COVID-19 stimulus bill known as the CARES Act cannot be spent to balance the budget, Haug said. However, an extra $150 million from the federal government for Medicaid has helped balance that program's budget, he said.
Despite the cuts, Parson said, there is reason for some optimism.
"It's better than what we predicted and if everybody stays focused … I think by the third or fourth quarter you’ll have a good idea of where we are as a state," Parson said.
Haug said cuts were done using a "surgical" approach instead of an across-the-board reduction.
University of Missouri System President Mun Choi said in a statement that the budget preserved $10 million for the system's NextGen Precision Health Institute project in Columbia. The project has been a top priority for Choi and UM leaders.
Choi said the four campuses of the UM System have endured $85 million in budget reductions since the pandemic began in March.
The Columbia campus has laid off 48 workers, furloughed 3,011 and instituted 1,956 pay cuts to make up for losses related to COVID-19.
State health director endorses masks
Dr. Randall Williams, the head of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, encouraged the public to wear masks where social distancing cannot be kept.
“The more we learn, the more important we realize that is,” Williams said of wearing face coverings. He said social distancing and handwashing are also important parts of slowing down the spread of COVID-19.
Missouri set several records last week for the number of COVID-19 cases in a day.
However, Parson said in response to a reporter's question that he has no plans to sign an order requiring mask use statewide.
Health officials in Columbia are working on drafting rules for mask use in public after a request by Mayor Brian Treece. Some other Missouri cities have already instituted mask rules.
Parson lamented the passing of a milestone Tuesday, as Missouri surpassed 1,000 COVID-19 deaths. He said the event is proof that the virus is still a problem.
"This virus is still here and we must continue to protect ourselves and others," Parson said. "Social distance is the key. It’s the most important thing we can do."
"We have to be able to move forward while still protecting public health," Parson said.