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Crist wants to tap reserves for $672-million

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Charlie Crist asked a special legislative panel Friday to tap $672-million from a budget reserve fund to help make up another state revenue shortfall.

Crist made the request under a law passed this year. It lets the Legislative Budget Commission use up to half of the state's $1.3-billion budget stabilization fund to offset such a shortage after getting the governor's recommendation.

The law also allows borrowing up to $1-billion from the Lawton Chiles Endowment, which invests money from the state's multibillion-dollar tobacco settlement for use on children's and health programs.

Crist is seeking the maximum from the budget fund but none of the tobacco money.

The $672-million would cover less than half of a $1.47-billion budget deficit. Crist wrote in his recommendation that he wants to wait until he gets a new revenue forecast from state economists in November before taking any further action.

The Legislative Budget Commission, with members from both chambers, is scheduled to take up Crist's request at its Sept. 10 meeting.

House Policy and Budget Committee Chairman Ray Sansom, R-Destin, agreed with Crist's recommendation.

"The governor is making a good, prudent business decision," said Sansom, also a member of the budget commission.

The commission's chairman, though, was withholding judgment.

Sen. Rudy Garcia, R-Hialeah, said he foresees a special legislative session, where budget cuts could be considered. Crist, though, recently said he has "no interest" in calling a special session.

The economists' latest revenue estimate Aug. 15 triggered the new deficit recovery law.

They reduced their previous general revenue forecast, which the Legislature used to write the $66-billion budget for the current fiscal year, by $1.8-billion.

The economists now believe the state's economic slump will be deeper and last about six months longer than they expected when they issued their March estimate.

The state, though, also has $326-million in unspent money carried over from the last budget year, leaving the $1.47-billion gap.

Lawmakers on Wednesday received a new budget outlook showing they'll have to fill a $3.5-billion gap in the 2009-10 fiscal year.

Crist wants to tap reserves for $672-million 08/29/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 2, 2010 2:42pm]
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