Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Florida's budget lacking, economists say

TALLAHASSEE — Florida will have $1.5-billion less than it needs to meet its budget this year, according to economists who downgraded estimates Friday of how much money the state will collect.

The culprits are the same, but the problem has grown much worse than experts anticipated in March. Florida's slumping housing market continues to lead the way along with higher prices for gas and food, all of which sharply reduce tax collections.

Not only have tightening credit markets kept people from getting mortgages, but also auto loans. And tourism, once a bright spot in a poor economy, is starting to trail off as the European markets cool.

"I believe these sort of doldrums will continue probably well into 2009," said Mike Duckett, senior economist in Gov. Charlie Crist's office, during Friday's revenue estimating conference.

The news came the same day that a state agency announced Florida had lost 96,800 jobs since July 2007.

Officially, economists lowered their revenue projections by $1.8-billion for the fiscal year that began July 1, about 7 percent below the March estimate.

But the Legislature set aside more than $300-million last year, leaving a deficit of roughly $1.5-billion.

The bulk of the lower estimate is due to falling sales tax collections, which pay for day-to-day state operations. The new estimate projects Florida will collect just $18-billion in sales taxes this year, $1.2-billion less than estimated in March and $1.4-billion less than $19.4-billion collected two years ago.

Crist did not react to the news and instead spent a second day touting a plan to fast-track construction and other state projects across the state. He predicts it will stimulate the economy.

But the governor will have to confront the situation soon. By law, Florida — unlike the federal government — can't run a deficit. Crist's options:

• Tap into reserve funds. The Legislature has given him authority to withdraw from the state's post-hurricane recovery fund or its health care endowment. About $1.6-billion is available.

• Make permanent an executive order cutting allocations to state agencies 4 percent, saving up to $1-billion.

• Call the Legislature into a special session to cut the budget, though that option would meet resistance in an election year.

"There's no need to panic at this time," said Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, saying Crist has the tools to deal with the situation for now.

News about the slow housing market — which has effectively cut construction jobs and slowed collections of real estate transaction taxes and sales taxes on paint and other ordinary household items — was the most dour Friday.

Economists said it appears the slump may continue six more months than anticipated, with prices not starting to stabilize until January 2010.

Striving for positive news, economists said it is part of a natural correction and that better times are ahead.

Florida's budget lacking, economists say 08/15/08 [Last modified: Sunday, August 17, 2008 10:04pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Bucs' annual Women of RED preseason party attracts nearly 2,000


    TAMPA — Theresa Jones is primarily a college football fan, but she wanted to get a taste of the Bucs. So the 46-year-old Tampa resident bought a ticket for the team's Women of RED Ultimate Football Party at Raymond James Stadium on Friday.

    Lee White of Seminole tries on a helmet at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla. on Friday, August 18, 2017.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers female fans descended upon Raymond James Stadium for the ultimate football party, the 2017 Women of RED: The Takeover, supported by Moffitt Cancer Center. CHARLIE KAIJO   |   Times

  2. Bucs' Ali Marpet: Move to center could pay off big


    TAMPA — No player works as closely with Jameis Winston as the center. Only those two touch the ball on every play. Together they make — if you will — snap judgements about defensive alignments.

     Jameis Winston #3 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Ali Marpet #74 warm up prior to preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field on August 17, 2017 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images) 700069805
  3. Inside the Rays continuing historically bad slump


    The numbers tell the story of the Rays inexplicable ongoing offensive slump, and the words detail how tough it has been to deal with.

  4. How Rays' Chris Archer is branching out on Twitter

    The Heater

    Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Chris Archer (22) leans on the railing of the dugout during the All-Star game at Marlins Park in Miami, Fla. on Tuesday, July 11, 2017. WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times

  5. Candidates for governor get emotional talking about their gay siblings


    Occasionally in today's hyper-rehearsed and contrived world of political campaigns one witnesses moments that are so honest and real, we can't help but understand we're not just listening to another politician give his or her stump speech; We're listening to a human being who understands personal pain at least as well …

    Chris King talking to reporters in Tallahassee