After day two of fiery debate, budget experts tick revenue estimates up $1.5B

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Gov. Ron DeSantis will have $32.48 billion in revenue to work with when he proposes his 2021-2022 budget.

State economists have agreed to revise the current fiscal year’s budget estimates up nearly $1.5 billion after corporate revenue projection disparities derailed a meeting Friday that usually runs without a hitch.

A dispute Friday pitting a budget expert from the Governor’s Office against his counterparts in the House, Senate and the Legislature’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research left conferees to reconcile Gov. Ron DeSantis‘ office predicted corporate revenue gains with EDR’s conservative outlook that showed expected losses. After continued testy discussions Monday in what the Governor’s negotiator described as a “mammoth conference,” an agreement finally emerged to split the difference in those forecasts, landing at $2.6 billion in corporate revenue projections for the current fiscal year.

Overall, the Revenue Estimating Conference’s 2020-2021 estimate went up $1.49 billion to $32.48 billion after the changes accepted Monday. That accounts for a 3.5% growth over the $31.37 billion raked in for 2019-2020, itself a 6.1% drop from the 2018-2019 fiscal year caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Holger Ciupalo and the Governor’s Office’s initial overall budget was $1.66 billion higher than EDR’s. The conference’s final revenue estimates will impact what budget cuts Gov. Ron DeSantis will propose for the 2021-2022 fiscal year.

In one exchange Friday, Ciupalo roared against EDR Coordinator Amy Baker, asking, “can I speak and not get interrupted?”

In August, economists reduced an overall estimate of general revenue for this fiscal year by $3.42 billion and an estimate for the 2021-2022 fiscal year by nearly $2 billion. On top of its $1.49 billion revision made Monday for 2021-2022, the conference pushed the 2021-2020 budget up $622.9 million to $34.31 billion.

After breaking over the weekend, which allowed the economists to revisit data from the Department of Revenue, the difference between the two camps appeared to grow.

“I’ll live with what we collectively put on the table, but I feel less confident in it today than I did Friday,” Baker said before the economists reached their agreement.

Still, she made the case for the panel to find common ground.

“I guess what I would say to you is that it’s a consensus conference,” she said. “We have to collectively weigh the risks (of) what we think are in there.”

But Ciupalo, who is the policy coordinator for the Governor’s Office of Policy and Budget, struggled to reconcile his office’s estimate from the Department of Revenue’s forecast.

“It doesn’t make sense to me. There’s no rationale behind it,” Ciupalo said.

The conference skipped the the corporate tax revenue question briefly to handle corporate refunds, which were similarly contentious. After a brief break, the panel settled on $2.6 billion in corporate revenue projections and convened a third time after finalizing the conference’s report.

Senate President Wilton Simpson warned during the Legislature’s Organization Session last month that budget cuts will be necessary in the upcoming year. In June, DeSantis issued more than $1 billion in line item vetoes to the Legislature’s proposed $93.2 billion budget.

Renzo Downey

Renzo Downey covers state government for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at renzo@floridapolitics.com and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.



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