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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

House: Reserves will cover bigger budget hole



Presser The Legislature, which takes up a $512-million cut bill tomorrow, will not need to slash more from the current fiscal year budget despite worsening revenue estimates.

This according to House Speaker Marco Rubio and budget chief Ray Sansom, who spoke at a 4:30 p.m. news conference.

Unspent money from the current year -- not the "rainy day fund" -- will be used to absorb the difference, they said. (That's the approach House Democrats suggested last week to minimize some of the cuts.) State budget wonks are expected to announce that the current fiscal year revenue hole is $1-billion.

-- Alex Leary

Rubio continues to see opportunity in the situation, saying it justifies more property tax cuts and a revenue and spending cap at all levels of government. "We are in a two to three year cycle where many of the decisions we make will determine how quickly we rebound."

The hole for the next fiscal year is growing too, of course. And that could bolster Gov. Charlie Crist's argument that the state should dip into trust funds and seek other revenue sources.

“Yeah, if it was a one year downturn," Rubio replied. "But it’s not. I’m looking right now at something that looks like a three year downturn. I’m a termed out legislator. The easiest thing for me to do is go into trust funds and reserves and make this year the best possible year. But it would be irresponsible and unfair.”

Sansom agreed, calling it a “very dangerous way to balance the budget when the economy is slowing down.” He added: “We’re doing what we believe people in Florida have asked us to do, and that is to reduce spending just like they’ve had to.”

Senate President Ken Pruitt issued a statement that also said additional cuts would not be needed for the current fiscal year budget.

"The drop in revenues is significant, and it puts the state budget in a very serious situation," Pruitt said. “I am grateful that we have seasoned veterans in the Senate who have navigated through fiscal challenges before. We must not take financial shortcuts in order to avoid the political heat that budget reductions will bring. We are going to need everyone to pull together to get through these difficult times. Florida’s economy has been robust, and I believe once we weather this correction period, we will see those prosperous days again."

[Last modified: Wednesday, September 15, 2010 1:17pm]


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