Florida’s budget experts predict the state will raise $3.4 billion less than previously expected this fiscal year on account of the COVID-19 pandemic.
That money is a significant revision, but less than expected, Senate President Bill Galvano said.
“Florida’s economy, just like the people who call our state home, has proven to be resilient as businesses continue to work incredibly hard to safely reopen,” he wrote in a memo to Senators Friday.
The last estimate made in January projected the state to make $34.4 billion in general revenue during the 2020-2021 fiscal year. Now, the state will likely only generate $31 billion, according to findings from Friday’s Revenue Estimating Conference.
The brunt of the pandemic’s financial effects appear isolated to the end of the fiscal year that ended in June. Through March, the state had raised $202.4 million more than anticipated in January. But revenue came up $2.1 billion short in the final quarter of the fiscal year.
“The good news is it seems like the revenue forecasts are coming in better than what we had thought,” Gov. Ron DeSantis told reporters earlier Friday. “I think July was better than what they had initially forecast. Heck, even April, which was our worst month, wasn’t as bad as immediately forecasted.”
In total, the state collected $31.4 billion in general revenue for the 2019-2020 fiscal year, a 6.1% contraction over the previous year. The 2020-2021 estimate represents only a 1.2% contraction.
Like DeSantis had to do in June, dumping more than $1 billion in line items to keep the state budget afloat, the state will have to make adjustments going forward, Galvano said.
“The road ahead will certainly not be easy,” he added. “Florida families continue to feel the impacts of the coronavirus on every aspect of our lives from our own health, to the way we educate our children, to the way we earn a living.”
At the culmination of the 2020 Legislative Session, which was extended to give extra considerations due to the virus, House Speaker José Oliva pointed to a possible vaccine as a possible saving grace for Florida’s tourism-based economy.
“We believe that a vaccine could have a very immediate turn of events, so that’s what we would hope for,” he said in March. “But we have to understand that the level of shutdown that has been required in order to ensure that this virus is contained is having an economic effect that is real.”
Even with a vaccine, Friday’s conference revised cash estimates for the four following fiscal years, until 2024-2025, down as much as $2 billion or as little as $1.6 billion each year.
The general revenue estimate will factor into the Legislative Budget Commission’s report ahead of the 2021 Legislative Session.
DeSantis also dispelled the idea that the Legislature could convene for a Special Session before the end of the current fiscal year with state agencies able to save an addition $1 billion on top of the $1 billion he already cut.
“Certainly we’ll be able to get to the end of the calendar year without having to do any type of Special Session,” he added, dependent on the national and state economy.
The state could put further CARES Act funding toward things like testing in prisons. Available federal funding plus unused reserves provides security for the state moving forward, Galvano said.