Atwater: 'Difficult road' ahead on state budget
In a memo to his fellow senators, Senate President Jeff Atwater, R-North Palm Beach, warns of a "difficult road that still lies ahead" on the state budget. He's asking all 40 senators to attend a presentation by top state economists on Jan. 20 to go over expected revenues in the coming years.
"Our economic indicators show that Florida has begun to see signs of growth and recovery from arguably the worst recession in recent times," Atwater writes in the memo. "However, our optimism from the stabilization and improvements in our economy must be tempered by the fact that the growth rates we are experiencing pale in comparison to those in our recent history."
Read the full memo below.
We started 2009 with a Special Session revising our budget. I also began the year with an opportunity for each member to hear about the precarious posture of our economy in the State of Florida. We all worked hard and made difficult choices to pass a balanced, responsible budget for the 2009-2010 fiscal year. Over the past few months, we have continued to monitor our revenue collections and future estimates to better predict our resources for not only the 2010-2011 fiscal year but for Florida’s future.
Our economic indicators show that Florida has begun to see signs of growth and recovery from arguably the worst recession in recent times. However, our optimism from the stabilization and improvements in our economy must be tempered by the fact that the growth rates we are experiencing pale in comparison to those in our recent history. Further, our projections show that the modest growth in our state revenues will be consumed by the increasing costs of our health and social services programs, notably the Medicaid program. We are carving out a new history, one that will require each of us to help create a Florida budget that reflects the times we are living in now.
As we begin to craft our future, we must take every opportunity to fully comprehend the difficult road that still lies ahead. With that in mind, I have asked the Policy and Steering Committee on Ways and Means to host a meeting on January 20, 2010, for all 40 Senators. Dr. David Denslow, Bureau of Economic and Business Research with the University of Florida, and Amy Baker, Office of Economic and Demographic Research with the Florida Legislature, will provide in-depth presentations on Florida’s economic indicators and the impact that those indicators have on our economic outlook and expected revenues in the coming years.
January 20 will also be the first time that the Transparency Florida website will go live for the general public. It is important that Floridians have the tools necessary to hold elected officials accountable for spending decisions. This website will show how we are carefully and purposefully spending each dollar they send to Tallahassee. We have scheduled time at the January 20 meeting for each of you to see what this website can do and demonstrate how it will allow every single Floridian to examine the use of their tax dollars.
Another issue that has garnered particular interest in recent months is the federal Health Care Reform package. This proposed legislation will have long-range fiscal impacts for our state. There will be a presentation to explain the important aspects of both the House and the Senate bills being considered in Washington and to examine the impacts each could have on our state’s budget, citizens and businesses in the coming years.
I am asking each Senator to make it a priority to attend this meeting on January 20, 2010 from 1-3 p.m. in 412 Knott Building. It is imperative that we share a common understanding of these important issues and begin now to build Florida’s responsible financial future together. Thank you in advance for your commitment of time and effort to help make this meeting as productive as possible.