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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

FL budget woes worsen. Shortfall could grow to $3.75b or $4b



The three groups of government economists who estimate the state's finances are meeting right now and, as expected, are about to issue another downer of a forecast. Averaging out their estimates indicates the state's general revenue budget (which accounts for schools, prisons and Medicaid) will lose another $131 million next budget year due to lower-than-anticipated tax collections.

Add that to the $3.62 billion estimated budget gap, and the shortfall could reach $3.75 billion.

It could be bigger. the Legislature's Economic & Demographic Research office forecasts a decline in tax collections of $332.4 million. That would make the shortfall $3.9 billion.

It could be smaller. The Department of Revenue has the rosiest view: an increase in collections of $47.4 million. But that's because DOR didn't update many of its numbers. Still, it would make the shortfall remain at roughly $3.6 billion.

Throughout the day, the economists from the Department of Revenue, the Legislature's Economic & Demographic Research office and the Executive Office of the Governor will hash out the numbers.

The economists differ on the particular numbers, but they seem to have a consensus that sales taxes and corporate income taxes -- the state's two biggest revenue sources -- are off.

Bottom line: Florida's economy barely has a pulse.

This is the most significant of the revenue estimates because these are the numbers the Legislature will use this spring to cobble together next year's budget, which is already running red with cuts and shortfalls. On the plus side, the Medicaid budget (about 28 percent of all state expenditures) isn't growing as big or as fast as anticipated. On the negative side, property values continue to plummet, removing an additional $117 million from the schools budget.

[Last modified: Friday, March 18, 2011 10:24am]


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