Gov. Charlie Crist just wrapped up another short press briefing where he reiterated that he's an "optimist" and saw positive signs in the economy. Crist mentioned that his budget chief led him to believe that state financial forecasters issued an estimate in March that was "more bleak" than current tax collections indicate.
Year to date, the forecasters' estimates are off by a mere $20.3 million. That's .12 percent off the estimate of $17.316 billion. And the head of the Legislature's Office of Economic and Demographic Research, Amy Baker, said the main reason for the higher-than-forecast collections was a change in the way corporate income taxes are being collected. In future months, she said, those tax collections could come in lower than forecast. So the estimate in the long run will be spot-on, and therefore realistically bleak.
"The good news is things didn't deteriorate more," Baker said. "The decline is stabilizing and slowing down, which we forecast."
Here's what Crist didn't mention. Sales taxes (the mainstay of the budget) are still declining relative to the March revenue estimate. It's off $44m. Also, the actual tax collections overall are down 12.8 percent compared to last year.
Crist also pointed out that home sales are going up, and the unemployment rate is declining. No mention of the fact that real estate activity has increased because of foreclosures and "distressed" sales. Nor did Crist mention that the unemployment rate's slight (two-tenths of a percent) decline was for one month or that 9.6 percent unemployment rate is far higher than when he took office.
So that leaves consumer confidence, which Crist also lauded. True. It's up. Slightly. But in a state/country where excess consumption helped lead to financial disaster, it's unclear how reliable the consumer confidence number really is in the long run.
Quiz: Who said Florida's "economic engine" would be "fired up" by Crist's property tax cut plan? Oh, yeah. That was Gov. Crist. In 2007.