Although the governor has urged lawmakers to return to the Capitol as soon as possible to pass a supplemental budget bill including new spending authority to address the COVID-19 pandemic, that won’t be happening until at least the first full week of April, and maybe not even that soon.
When either chamber returns for full session remains uncertain as legislative leaders try to minimize the spread of COVID-19, which has already infected one lawmaker – state Rep. Joe Runions, D-Grandview. Runions was hospitalized for more than a week before being allowed to go home, where he continues to recover.
The House passed its version of the supplemental budget bill on March 18 before starting its scheduled spring recess. House Bill 2014 contains new spending authority for various aspects of state government for the remainder of the 2020 fiscal year, which ends June 30. Although the bill’s Republican sponsor included $33 million in emergency spending authority to help address the current crisis, that amount is far less than what House Democrats argued will be needed and what Parson, also a Republican, is likely to ask the Senate to provide.
With many Missouri businesses closed and many thousands of people suddenly out of work due to COVID-19, the state budgets for both FY 2020 and FY 2021 are expected to take major hits. Parson likely will be forced to impose budget withholdings for the current fiscal year to reflect the sharp decline in revenue collections. Implementing midyear budget cuts will be all the more difficult since only about three months remain in the fiscal year and the bulk of the state budget for the year has been spent.
During his March 24 press briefing, Parson acknowledged that the FY 2021 budget proposal he submitted to lawmakers in January will have to be substantially cut. While his proposal expected state general revenue to grow 1.9 percent next fiscal year, collections instead will likely go down. The question yet to be answer is by how much?
“There is no doubt the budget we proposed is going to change,” Parson said. “None of the numbers we proposed in January are now realistic.”
The House Budget Committee passed on its version of the FY 2021 budget bills on March 15 in expectation of passing them prior to the House adjourning for spring break. However, Republican leaders ended up shelving the budget debate by the full House until it returns from its now-extended break.
To reflect the new financial reality, the House might have to completely rewrite the budget before sending it to the Senate. Lawmakers face a May 8 constitutional deadline to grant final passage to the budget bills. The 2021 fiscal year begins July 1.