Parson restores $133M in budget cuts as Missouri economy rebounds

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Missouri’s economy is rebounding better than state economists projected over the summer, allowing Gov. Mike Parson to restore $133 million of the $448 million he cut from the state’s $35.3 billion budget before it went into effect on July 1.

The $133 million including $38 million in general revenues and $95 million in green-lighted federal funding, notably $61.5 million in CARES Act money for primary and secondary schools and $26 million for higher education, Parson said.

“We are now in a position to release some of the funding that was restricted earlier this year,” Parson said Wednesday in his first press briefing since emerging from quarantine Saturday after being diagnosed with COVID-19 on Sept. 23.

Noting four of his staff who tested positive for COVID-19 had also recovered and had returned to work from quarantines, Parson said he will likely call for a special legislative session to sort through the state’s budget issues but did not suggest when that might happen.

In June, state economists forecast Missouri’s unemployment rate would be 16.3 percent in early October. It is at 7 percent, Parson said, noting the state has recovered more than 200,000 of 346,000 jobs lost since the pandemic began in March.

Parson said the state’s September general revenues topped $944 million, 3 percent more than the $917 million Missouri collected in September 2019.

“We are outpacing our budget forecast and recovering more jobs than the vast majority of other states,” he said.

Legislators had already shaved approximately $700 million from their proposed original $36.5 billion spending plan before Parson unilaterally whittled another $448 million from the FY21 budget the day before it went into effect on July

In his $448 million budget trim, Parson delayed a 2-percent pay raise for the state’s 50,000 employees and eliminated approximately 500 state jobs, including 200 vacant positions and 200 in the Department of Social Services, after 2020 revenues fell approximately 7 percent from the year before, almost $1 billion below projections.

Of the “unfrozen” $38 million in general fund money, $14 million is for four-year colleges and universities, $9.2 million for community colleges and $3.2 million for Bright Flight scholarships, which work to keep the brightest Missouri high schoolers in-state.

The released funding also includes $150,000 for investigating unregulated slot machines and $300,000 for school safety training grants, according to the Governor’s Office.

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