CFO Jimmy Patronis asked Gov. Ron DeSantis and legislative leaders Friday to convene the state’s budget experts to determine the possible impacts of the coronavirus on the state’s economy.
The Revenue Estimating Conference meets periodically to evaluate money drawn in from taxes and other revenue sources. Patronis asked the conference to convene early to “assess the economic realities of the COVID-19 virus and associated response effort.”
Patronis’ Department of Financial Services (DFS) is responsible for assuring the state’s budget does not run in the red.
“We all share in a constitutional obligation to ensure the state can raise sufficient revenues to finance the appropriations prerogatives of the Legislature,” he wrote.
On Thursday, the state’s lawmaking arm passed its $93.2 billion budget for the fiscal year beginning in July. House Speaker José Oliva and Senate President Bill Galvano suggested the Legislature could call its budget experts to address the anticipated crisis but remained optimistic a special session would not be necessary.
Since the beginning of the budget-making process last year, the state’s revenue outlook has shifted significantly. Ahead of this year’s Session, budgeters predicted the state’s economic boom to slow down. Now, COVID-19 has effectively shuttered the tourism industry and crippled the hospitality industry.
“We are at war in many ways with an unseen enemy, and a time of war is a time of uncertainty,” Patronis added. “Our job is to be as conscientious as possible when spending Florida taxpayer money.”
The CFO lauded DeSantis’ call to suspend licensure renewal requirements. But he pointed to that delay in trust fund revenue as an example of the possible impact of the state’s coronavirus response.
On Tuesday, the Governor also implemented $50,000 single-year emergency loans for small businesses.
On Thursday, DFS workers began telecommuting to help reduce the spread of the new coronavirus. Fears of one agency employee becoming infected and closing the office’s doors drove the decision.
“By directing all employees to immediately telework, we have the flexibility of operating limited skeleton crews at facilities for our most critical needs,” Patronis said in a statement.
His office has also worked with Bank of America to increase the state’s credit limit from $56 million to $100 million to ensure state agencies can quickly make necessary purchases.