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Stimulus money could save Florida budget, Senate president says

“We may need to return to Tallahassee, at the appropriate time in fiscal year 2020-21, to formally appropriate available federal funding,” said Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton.

Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, said Thursday that billions of dollars Florida will receive from a federal-stimulus package could help the state avoid having to make “significant” budget cuts during the upcoming fiscal year.

Lawmakers last month passed a $93.2 billion budget for the fiscal year that will start July 1, but it was built on tax estimates before the novel coronavirus caused massive economic problems. Galvano wrote in a memo to senators Thursday that the state has enough cash to get through the current fiscal year without having to make cuts.

He also pointed to an estimated $12 billion that will come to Florida from the recently passed stimulus package known as the CARES Act. He said the package is expected to provide about $8.3 billion for state and local budget “stabilization,” with $4.6 billion of that amount going to the state. He said another $3.7 billion is expected to be available for specific state programs.

“In addition to the healthy reserve set aside this (legislative) session, the influx of federal funding under the CARES Act should help alleviate concerns regarding significant budget cuts to the 2020-21 fiscal year budget,” Galvano wrote in the memo. “Any line item vetoes Governor DeSantis deems necessary (in the newly passed budget) will further buffer the already healthy reserve.”

With businesses shuttering or scaling back and hundreds of thousands of Floridians losing their jobs, state tax revenues are expected to plummet in the coming months.

While Galvano expressed confidence about not having to make deep cuts in next year’s budget, he indicated in the memo that a special session could be needed to address the federal money.

“Based on our initial analysis of the CARES Act, we may need to return to Tallahassee, at the appropriate time in fiscal year 2020-21, to formally appropriate available federal funding,” he wrote. “We must be mindful our state budget impacts our constituents and our economy, and the decisions we make must demonstrate fiscal responsibility, while doing no harm.”

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