Last week, a Florida Senate committee heard that a potential surplus of more than $220-million had likely disappeared for next year’s state budget because of Hurricane Michael.
This week, the outlook turned more positive, with analysts projecting a significant increase in state revenue over two years.
Budget analysts periodically meet inside a building next to the Capitol for what’s known as the Revenue Estimating Conference.
These conferences aren’t exactly enthralling, but they are necessary. Analysts from various government agencies try to come to a consensus on how much money Florida lawmakers will have to work with in the coming years based on the state and national economy.
“Our job as principals is to take account of where we think we are in the economic cycle and bring that to this (forecast),” says Amy Baker, coordinator for the Legislature's Office of Economic and Demographic Research. She and other policy wonks have to make sense of a state budget that’s currently worth nearly $89-billion.
For hours, they go over documents and talk numbers. Then, they issue outlooks on everything from Medicaid funding to public school enrollment.
During the recession, Baker and other analysts tracked a reduction in income from tourist taxes and other means of revenue. The result was a decrease in the state budget and a cut in some programs.
A decade or so later, the state is in much better shape.
Now, general revenue projections are up by $842 million over two years. The Revenue Estimating Conference credits a recent surge in sales-tax and corporate income-tax collections for the boost.
“While this is the largest combined increase since April 2006 during the peak of the housing boom, the Conference recognizes that there is an elevated level of risk due to the mature stage of the current economic expansion,” Baker said, reading a summary of the latest forecast.
If the revenue projections hold, incoming Governor Ron DeSantis and the Florida Legislature will be under less pressure as they draft a state budget for consideration during the session that begins in March.
~News Service of Florida contributed to this report