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Historically, Missouri has generally taken a conservative and prudent approach to budgeting.
The Missouri Legislature has declined to appropriate funding for many requests when funding is tight. Gov. Mike Parson and his predecessors have withheld funding and cut funding to keep our budget balanced. A balanced budget is a requirement of our state Constitution — something not all states have. Some of those states have had serious financial problems due to their overspending.
Now, Parson has announced a new round of spending restrictions due to the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. The latest restriction amounts to $47 million. That's on top of the $180 million in restrictions announced earlier this month.
We expect this won't be the last of the spending restrictions/cuts. With the pandemic, state revenues are dropping, while needs are increasing. It's a recipe for temptation — temptation to spend money we don't have. The federal government has already doubled down on its overspending in an attempt to keep our economy afloat and keep food on families' tables.
The restrictions will affect nine state agencies, the Missouri Attorney General's Office and the General Assembly. About half of the funding restrictions will impact the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
As we recently reported, the state Legislature plans to meet next week to begin crafting next year's budget. Earlier this month, it passed a supplemental budget to get the state through the end of June and to authorize spending of emergency federal aid.
We commend the governor and the Legislature for their continued work to balance the budget, a task that could make the budget process during the 2008 recession look like a walk in the park.
The ever-present tug-of-wars for funding will only increase. The state isn't going to be able to fund everything it has in the past.
If you want to express your funding priorities to your state lawmakers or to the governor, you should do so. But do so respectfully, with the understanding that — for the foreseeable future — the state will have less money to spread around.