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As Week 3 begins, legislators will come to grips with grim budget numbers

TALLAHASSEE — The session enters its third week today but in a sense, the real work has just begun.

Lawmakers will get the first chance to mull over Friday's announcement that the current budget deficit has grown to $700 million and next year's hole could be as big as $3 billion.

The revenue projections have been long-awaited and will dictate how lawmakers proceed in the coming weeks.

This afternoon, the House Finance and Tax Council resumes work reviewing sales tax exemptions. The panel also will discuss a proposed streamlined sales tax that would eliminate barriers to collecting taxes across state borders, primarily Internet purchases.

Both would generate hundreds of millions in new revenue, but it is uncertain how much will be done, particularly with sales tax exemptions. Over the past two weeks, a steady stream of lobbyists have testified against eliminating exemptions on everything from bottled water to charter fishing trips.

State economists will turn attention today to another revenue source: Utility taxes that go toward school construction. Expect similarly downcast projections, which could be bad news for public schools and colleges alike.

Meanwhile, gay rights advocates are promising at least 1,000 people for a rally this afternoon. It "will be the largest event of its kind with over 1,000 people coming from all over Florida to call on the Florida Legislature to pass pro-equality legislation for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Floridians,'' says Equality Florida. Guest speakers are to include Harvey Milk's nephew, Stuart, and gay adoption plaintiff Frank Mill.

As Week 3 begins, legislators will come to grips with grim budget numbers 03/16/09 [Last modified: Friday, March 13, 2009 9:29pm]

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