TALLAHASSEE — From reducing prison costs to grappling with the state's prepaid college funds, the state Legislature turns its attention Thursday to virtually every aspect of the state budget.
This is the first week the budget committees meet with the new and bleak economic forecast issued by the state Revenue Estimating Conference on Friday. Factoring in the lower-than-expected tax collections, the budget deficit could reach $3 billion next year.
And that's the deficit with billions in federal stimulus money. So lawmakers will likely have to do "a mix of cuts and revenues'' — that is tax and fee increases — said Senate budget chief J.D. Alexander.
Sen. Victor Crist of Tampa said it won't be pretty.
"This is going to be a bloody year," Crist recently warned the criminal justice budget committee that he chairs.