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story.lead_photo.caption Missouri Gov. Mike Parson speaks during a COVID-19 briefing Monday, April 20, 2020. Photo by Courtesy of Missouri Governor's Office

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson said Tuesday he's asked every state department to start making a plan to cut expenses, with more expected state budget withholds for the current fiscal year and next fiscal year, though the governor did not immediately give any numbers.

Parson did say tough decisions will have to be made in the near future, and he's meeting today with colleges, universities and the state's Department of Elementary and Secondary Education "to explain where I believe the state is going and what we're going to have to do to balance the budget in the coming days."

He said he also met with his cabinet leaders Monday "to tell (the department directors) somewhat to expect and start to make adjustments, to start putting a plan in each department of what we're going to do to cut the expenses of state government — and everything's on the table to be able to do that."

The revenue streams for the state have been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic — including through unemployment, lost sales tax revenue, deferred income tax revenue that won't be available until after July 15, and lost revenue from closed casinos.

Parson has previously said he anticipated more withholds from the state budget for the remainder of the 2020 fiscal year, which ends June 30.

He gave a timeline Tuesday to those expected withholds, to come within the next seven to 10 days.

The state has already withheld approximately $227 million from the 2020 budget, with the first $180 million round of restrictions most severely affecting colleges and universities.

Furthermore, Parson added Tuesday he also believes there will more withholds throughout the state July 1 — for the 2021 budget — though federal aid could help stem those.

If that federal aid does not come through, though, "we are a long way from having the money that we need to move into 2021," Parson said.

For example, the budget that state lawmakers passed this month for colleges and universities for 2021 included a 10 percent cut in state aid, if more federal money does not come through.

Parson said the anticipated withholds do not necessarily guarantee a special session of the Legislature to come back and supplement the 2021 budget: "At the end of the day, my job is to balance the budget, regardless of what anybody else does, and that's what we're going to do."

Even now, the revenue picture for the state going forward is still not entirely clear, he added: "It's a guessing game. Nobody knows what revenue is going to do."

Parson was still optimistic about a third or fourth quarter economic turnaround.

As for individual Missourians' financial dealings with the state, Ken Zellers — director of the Missouri Department of Revenue — said Tuesday that 2.5 million individual income tax returns had been processed.

That's about 358,000 less than this time last year, but Zellers attributed the decrease to the delayed filing deadline.

He added the local tax assistance and vehicle license offices are open — with just a few individual exceptions elsewhere in the state — but added that customers are still being encouraged to renew their plates earlier in the month or online.

People whose plates expired in March have until May 31 to renew them without paying a late penalty. Those with plates that expired in April have until June 30 to pay without a late fee.

"Although the automatic penalty waiver for title applicants expired April 30, contract license offices have been instructed to continue waiving title penalties for applicants who were unable to title their vehicle in March or April due to COVID-19," according to a news release from Parson's office.

"Any customer who was not able to title their vehicle in March or April due to COVID-19 but was assessed a title penalty after April 30 may request a refund by filling out Form 426 and submitting it to DOR," the news release added.

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