Missouri Gov. Mike Parson cut another $459 million in state spending Tuesday as the coronavirus-induced downturn continued taking its toll with Congress still silent on calls for more help.
Parson, a Republican, announced the move in an afternoon press conference, describing it as a terrible necessity brought on by a fiscal nightmare few could have predicted six months ago.
"We started off this year excited for the future," Parson said. "We fully intended to continue our focus on workforce development and infrastructure. Needless to say, when COVID-19 hit Missouri in March, everything changed."
The cuts to the Fiscal Year 2021 budget, which will take effect Wednesday, come atop roughly $430 million in withholds from the Fiscal Year 2020 budget announced in April and May.
And just like those earlier cuts, Tuesday's singled out public schools, colleges and universities that receive a lot of state discretionary money for attention.
Parson restricted $123.3 million in benchmark aid for K-12 schools, a 3.5 percent cut. Community colleges and universities are looking at 12 percent cuts compared to last year's original appropriation and a 32 percent cut to the Bright Flight scholarship program that works to keep the brightest Missouri high schoolers in-state.
And that was just the beginning for a spending blueprint that state budget director Dan Haug said eliminated as much new spending as possible.
Parson froze $46 million going towards repairs and maintenance of state facilities, $10 million for a fund that helps pay for drinking water and wastewater projects and $8.5 million out of the state tourism office, nearly half its budget.
Smaller cuts hit high-profile items, too, like the Attorney General Eric Schmitt's Safer Streets Initiative that allows state attorneys to bring federal charges against violent criminals.
Proposed raises for state workers are also gone, and 300 state jobs, mostly in the Department of Social Services, are soon to follow, Haug said.
Items earmarked for certain local priorities were also targeted, like a $1 million line meant to help the Truman Library in Independence with an expansion.
The State Historical Society of Missouri in Columbia, which is responsible for planning the state’s bicentennial celebration in 2021, lost a quarter of its state funding.
"We left no agency, division or program out of our review," Parson told reporters at a press briefing Tuesday.
Parson and his budget director, Dan Haug, indicated some of the restrictions announced Tuesday could potentially be temporary if state revenues exceed expectations.
"We are hopeful that the economy will rebound quickly and we can restore some of these funds," Parson said.
Absent any improvement, though, hard-hit institutions will continue keeping close eyes on their books.
At Missouri State, where leaders have already taken pay cuts and cut as much discretionary spending as possible, the withholds will amount to an $11.1 million dip, or slightly more than the $9.25 million cut the university's budget anticipates.
President Clif Smart told a reporter there's a" good chance" higher-than-expected fall enrollment numbers could cancel out that deficit, but if not, a pay reduction for 2020-21 year could come into play.
"If enrollment is good, we will not have to do that," he said. "We’ll certainly put that decision off for three months until we saw what enrollment looks like in September."
Meanwhile, the University of Missouri System has laid off more than 100 employees and furloughed more than 3,000, according to an online tracker.
And while System president Mun Choi put out a statement Tuesday thanking Parson for leaving $10 million in the budget for MU's NextGen Institute, a "precision medicine" center in Columbia, it's not clear how exactly it will be funded.
The budget, which Parson also signed into law Tuesday, calls for the $10 million to be paid out of an account where the state keeps special aid from the federal government, and Haug, the budget director, said the state is probably going to need that aid for other things.
"Right now, we’re assuming that that’s not going to be funded," Haug said.
Austin Huguelet is the News-Leader's politics reporter. Got something he should know? Have a question? Call him at 417-403-8096 or email him at email@example.com.