TALLAHASSEE — Lawmakers this week will get a more detailed look at the state’s financial picture and how that will affect a range of things from dentures and glasses for Medicaid recipients to the amount Florida spends to educate its children.
House and Senate budget panels are expected to release their official first drafts of budget recommendations as they assemble a $65 billion spending package that has a $3.8 billion hole to fill. Preliminary Senate proposals were released last week but the process gets more focused in the days ahead, as leaders of both chambers give their budget drafters specific budget allocations to work with.
Revenue collections in Florida will be slightly less than the $24 billion previously predicted for the fiscal year beginning July 1, a panel of state economists reported Friday. Meeting to tweak state revenue figures for the 2011-12 fiscal year last revised in December, economists from the state Legislature, the Florida Department of Revenue and the governor’s office say collections will fall $215.8 million of December projections.
Higher than expected collections for the remainder of the 2010 fiscal year will cushion that some, but lawmakers are still looking at about $150 million less to work with at a time when budgets have already been stretched thin.
The reduction last week was fueled in large part by an anticipated $171 million drop in sales tax revenue as the economy takes longer than previously expected to sputter back to life. Corporate income taxes were also expected to be lower than previously expected, as businesses continue to be hampered by tight credit and an unemployment rate of nearly 12 percent that has muted consumer demand.
“Overall, the adjustments to the forecast indicate an economy that is still in the early stages of an abnormally slow recovery,” said Amy Baker, coordinator of the Legislative Office of Economic and Demographic Research.
The $24 billion in general revenue represents less than half of the $65 billion the state is expected to spend in the 2011/12 fiscal year. The remainder of revenue comes from dedicated trust funds, targeted fees and federal dollars that include money for Medicaid and other federal/state programs.
Promises made by Florida Governor Rick Scott to cut required property taxes by 25 percent and phase out the state’s corporate income tax may be difficult for the Legislature to keep.
“Overall, the conference remains cautiously optimistic, in spite of rising fuel and food prices as well as other global economic disruptions,” Baker said. “Underlying the forecast is the assumption is that the recovery has been underway since the late spring of 2010 but with growth rates that were more anemic than originally anticipated.”