Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Florida's state budget shortfall shrinks in new forecast

TALLAHASSEE — Florida's looming budget shortfall has been cut in half by state analysts, who credit federal stimulus dollars, years of spending cuts and Indian gambling money as helping to forge a brighter picture — but still leaving the state in a $2.5 billion hole.

A year ago, state forecasters projected a $5.5 billion gap for 2011-12, as the remnants of the recession and a stone-cold housing market looked certain to dig deeply into state tax revenue. But in a revamped forecast slated to be reviewed Tuesday by the Legislative Budget Commission, analysts now say the tide of red ink may stop at the $2.5 billion mark.

"This is what we see at this moment," said Amy Baker, coordinator of the Legislature's Office of Economic and Demographic Research, among several panels making the latest forecast. "The revenue side is slightly better. And the spending has leveled off."

Baker conceded, however, that the revised projection does not take into account the impact of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. The effect of the tourist slump in the Panhandle this past summer — coupled with increased spending on efforts to clean up the oil — is still proving too difficult to gauge, she said.

"It's a big caveat in the forecast," Baker said. "We'll know more in coming months."

While the expected budget hole has diminished, lawmakers from both parties agreed that the debate over how to fill it remains largely unchanged, as the fall campaigns gather strength.

The Legislature's ruling Republicans already have set the stage for another round of belt tightening — and could draw strength from the economists' crediting reduced state spending as helping to produce the improved forecast.

"It's more pleasant to hear that things are getting better," said Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Nicevillle, who chairs the Senate's Select Committee on Florida's Economy. "But I think you have to credit the Republican majority for cutting recurring spending so we don't find ourselves hurtling toward the precipice."

But Gaetz said he was wary of the suddenly improved forecast, especially since the state's troubled housing market has shown only feeble signs of life and Medicaid costs are on track to top $20 billion next year, demanding an additional $1.4 billion in taxpayer dollars, according to analysts.

Gaetz said the forecast, while based on extensive data, "is a highly sophisticated Ouija board."

Democrats, who have pushed for closing some corporate-tax exemptions and enforcement of stricter Internet sales taxes, also said the revised shortfall eases pressure — but only slightly.

"We're not facing as big a deficit, but it's still a big one," said Rep. Ron Saunders of Key West, designated as the incoming House Democratic leader. "And the federal stimulus money is going away. A lot also is going to depend on who is governor."

Florida's state budget shortfall shrinks in new forecast 09/07/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 7, 2010 7:57pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rays blow lead, rally, blow lead, rally again to beat Twins in 15 (w/video)

    The Heater

    MINNEAPOLIS — The Rays sure made it interesting Sunday, taking an early lead, watching their beleaguered bullpen blow it, rallying to tie in the ninth, battling the Twins to take a lead in the 14th then giving it up again.

    MINNEAPOLIS, MN - MAY 28: Evan Longoria #3 of the Tampa Bay Rays celebrates scoring a run against the Minnesota Twins during the first inning of the game on May 28, 2017 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) 700010990
  2. Marijuana extract sharply cuts seizures in severe form of epilepsy


    An oil derived from the marijuana plant sharply reduces violent seizures in young people suffering from a rare, severe form of epilepsy, according to a study published last week that gives more hope to parents who have been clamoring for access to the medication.

  3. 'I ain't fit to live': Police say Mississippi gunman kills 8


    BROOKHAVEN, Miss. — A man who got into an argument with his estranged wife and her family over his children was arrested Sunday in a house-to-house shooting rampage in rural Mississippi that left eight people dead, including his mother-in-law and a sheriff's deputy.

    People embrace Sunday outside the Bogue Chitto, Miss., house where eight people were killed during a shooting rampage Saturday in Lincoln County, Miss.
  4. Kushner's Russia ties questioned as Trump cites media 'lies'


    WASHINGTON — Congressional Democrats on Sunday demanded to hear directly from top White House adviser Jared Kushner over allegations of proposed secret back-channel communications with Russia, saying the security clearance of President Donald Trump's son-in-law may need to be revoked.

  5. Muslims thankful for support after rant, deadly attack


    PORTLAND, Ore. — Muslims in Portland, Ore., thanked the community for its support and said they were raising money for the families of two men who were killed when they came to the defense of two young women — one wearing a hijab — who were targeted by an anti-Muslim rant.

    Jeremy Christian is accused of killing 2 men who stepped in as he berated two women.