House Appropriations Chair Jay Trumbull isn’t holding his breath for Congress.
Facing a considerable budget shortfall, the Bay County Republican told committee members Wednesday they should carry on as if no federal help is on the way.
“We do not build our budget based on assumptions as to what Congress may or may not do,” Trumbull told committee members. “The way we have to build our budget is where we sit today.”
Trumbull contended lawmakers have “no idea” what federal aid — if any – Florida may receive. What’s more, lawmakers would need to consider what strings may be attached to any federal relief.
Alternatively, Rep. Joe Geller suggested the committee could “walk and chew gum at the same time.” Geller, an Aventura Democrat, encouraged colleagues to at least consider a “Plan B” should federal aid wash up on Florida’s shores.
According to data presented to the committee, Florida lawmakers are expecting a roughly $2.75 billion general revenue deficit in Fiscal Year 2021-22. The general revenue deficit is forecasted to stay red throughout fiscal year 2023-24 at least.
Trumbull, speaking at the committee’s first meeting, acknowledged that lawmakers need to rethink the process considering the economic circumstances.
“I don’t think it’s lost on this committee,” Trumbull said. “We have to systematically change the way we build this budget.”
Throughout the hour-long meeting, lawmakers brainstormed possible approaches aloud involving various budget areas.
Trumbull noted that Medicare caseloads could demand more revenue, somewhere in the ballpark of $1.2 billion. Other areas including criminal justice and education, Trumble noted, may need to tighten the belt.
“It is mathematically impossible to cut $2 billion out of this budget without taking anything from education, obviously, due to the fact that recurring (general revenue) represents a significant amount of our budget,” Trumbull said.
Democratic Rep. Nicholas Duran, meanwhile, stressed the importance of legislative budget oversight.
“We’ve been funding agencies here that we’ve seen drop the ball in different ways during this crisis,” the Miami-Dade lawmaker said citing the Department of Economic Opportunity. “And I do think this committee has jurisdiction and responsibility to make sure that state funds that are appropriated to do things are actually being spent wisely.”
The Florida Legislative Session begins on March 2.