How will the coronavirus affect Missouri’s state budget?

Regional News

The Missouri Senate chamber sits empty on Thursday, March 12, 2020, in Jefferson City, Missouri, after senators adjourned for the day and announced they would not reconvene in a full session until at least March 30 because of concerns over the new coronavirus. Officials in state capitols across the country have been announcing new precautions intended to guard against the spread of the disease. For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. (Photo by David A. Lieb)

(Missourinet)– The Missouri Legislature is working on a more than $30 billion state budget for the fiscal year beginning in July. Lawmakers are crafting a balanced budget they are required to pass in early May. Now they are faced with the effects of COVID-19, often referred to as the coronavirus, and how it will creep its way into the current and future state budgets and state revenues.

Several events, businesses and schools in Missouri have taken precautionary steps in an effort to avoid an outbreak of COVID-19. Missouri cities hosting major college and high school basketball tournaments will take a hit for getting the games called off or limiting the number of fans allowed, not to mention the St. Louis Blues having the plug pulled on the team’s season.

Missouri will miss out on all those fans once coming through its airports, spending money to hitch a ride to the events, crashing at a hotel, shopping, eating, and drinking. Speaking of drinking, Kansas City and St. Louis have both canceled their St. Patty’s Day parades. That’s a lot of green beer sales not bringing in as much green paper.

The financial impact of these events collecting far less money than planned will trickle down to the state level. There might also be a growing state-level price tag for coronavirus response for agencies like the State Health and Human Services Department. It all depends on how the disease plays out.

During a press conference Thursday at the Missouri Capitol in Jefferson City, Majority Leader Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, says lawmakers might have to make some tougher decisions.

“This is unchartered waters for us and so we’re going to take it as it comes,” says Rowden. “It’s probably two-fold: One, we figure out how much money we’ve got coming in and obviously what we have to spend. But also, potentially what dollars need to be utilized and resourced for the purposes of dealing with this particular issue.”

Rowden says Gov. Mike Parson and legislative budget leaders did not reach a consensus revenue estimate – an agreement on how much they project the state to earn in revenue during the upcoming state budget year. The estimate helps lawmakers shape the budget.

“At least maybe a silver lining in that, which is not something we are celebrating, but it provides Senator (Dan) Hegeman a little bit of flexibility when the House budget comes over to recognize, I think we were under the general assumption that the economy has been good. And so, we thought if anything, that we might have the chance to spend a little more money than the House did on our priorities. But if that’s reversed, based on the information that we have, based on the economic realities of the coronavirus and the backlash, we’ll have to deal with that as well,” he says.

The Missouri Constitution requires state lawmakers to approve a balanced budget by early May.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the United States has more than 1,200 cases of COVID-19. So far, 36 people have died from the illness. Globally, the virus has sickened more than 125,000 people and killed about 4,600. About two-thirds of the cases originate in China.

So far, Missouri has tested 73 patients for the virus and that number continues to grow.

Thursday, Gov. Parson announced the state’s second “presumptive positive” case of the respiratory illness is a Springfield patient in their 20s who recently traveled to Austria.

Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed a positive case involving a St. Louis County woman in her 20’s who recently studied abroad in Italy.

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