Florida’s massive budget surplus — created in part due to a huge influx of federal coronavirus relief payments and a quickly recovering economy due to the state’s push to keep businesses open during the pandemic — is getting even larger.
State economists met Friday and crafted a new forecast that predicts state lawmakers will have nearly $4 billion more in general revenue to spend when they start work on a budget for the fiscal year 2022-2023, which begins July 1.
The biggest reason for the jump in general revenue is a surge in sales tax collections which have greatly exceeded even the estimates that were drawn up this past August.
There has also been an uptick in taxes charged on real estate transactions, which economists contend will continue to remain higher until anticipated higher interest rates on mortgages kick in later in 2022.
Economists during the course of the day went back and forth over the continued impact of federal stimulus dollars and how much spending would continue in the years ahead.
“We are going to lose steam from this going forward because we are not getting any more big slugs of federal money related to Covid at this point,” Amy Baker, the Legislature’s top economist, said.
Holger Ciupalo, the Governor’s Office’s economist on the panel, disagreed with Baker, saying, “You had the stimulus payments going into the economy,” he said. “Now they are employed.”
Friday’s news from the top economists means legislators will have more than $11.2 billion in unspent general revenue from the current budget year, which ends June 30.
Add to that the estimated amount of money that will come in during the 2022-23 fiscal year that starts on July 1 and it means that Legislators will have an estimated $50.4 billion in general revenue to appropriate.
Legislators will now spend the rest of the 60-day Legislative Session working on a new budget for the next fiscal year. While they meet in Session annually and pass hundreds of bill the General Appropriations Act, or the budget, is the only bill lawmakers are required to pass.
Lawmakers usually wait until the new general revenue estimates come out before they start making actual spending decisions. That means the House and Senate can jump into budget making as early as next week.
While there have been budget surpluses in the past, the current windfall is unprecedented and could lead to a spending frenzy as lobbyists and legislators seek to obtain money for their pet projects. But some Republican lawmakers have cautioned that they do not want to sign off on huge new expenditures especially since chunks of the available money are one time only windfalls.
“It’s important to me that we continue to pay for recurring state costs with recurring state funding and use one-time federal funds to continue to invest in long-term infrastructure projects that create good jobs in the short-term while benefiting generations of Floridians to come,” Senate President Wilton Simpson said in a statement.
Simpson, however, also lauded the new forecast and said that “our state remains in a lot better shape than we ever thought possible.” He did add that legislators have spending obligations to meet – such as a requirement to move up the minimum salaries paid to state workers and those in other critical services in order to comply with the voter-approved amendment that is gradually increasing Florida’s minimum wage to $15 an hour.
“As we prepare for the bulk of the budget work over the next few weeks, I think we have every reason to be optimistic,” Simpson said.
January 22, 2022 at 11:36 am
Total compliments and thanks to Governor Ron, America’s Governor in providing great leadership on shepherding Florida’s economy. To be clear, this is due to Govs decision to not shutdown the economy. Florida has become the example for all states. Economic liberty, continued low job growth, kids, schools, businesses and families thriving. Florida under America’s Governor is economic Freedom!
January 23, 2022 at 9:12 pm
What about veteran teachers? We will make less than new teachers if the referendum does not pass again. Give us raises that are meaningful. Not a one time bonus. .
January 31, 2022 at 7:15 pm
Corrections is in the same boat. New CO’s got 7k raises while we got pennies. A rookie Sergeant with two years on the job now makes the same as me with sixteen years. Many, Many veterans are now anxiously awaiting the results of the new budget to determine whether we stay or start looking elsewhere for new jobs.
January 24, 2022 at 8:41 pm
America’s Gov raised pay 3 yrs ago, pre pandemic. Your state union sued him when he ordered schools open, they lost! That’s how they said thanks. To Govs credit, Gov still has provided bonuses, twice. Great Gov!!
January 26, 2022 at 2:12 am
This is not the first time that Florida’s coffers both in state and local government have been flush with cash. In the last housing boom from 2002-2007 they also had far more money than they needed for their primary goals and yet they found a way to spend it like drunken sailors instead of actually reducing the tax burden of homeowners and everyone else. Then came the recession and housing collapse and suddenly they were crying poverty and needing to INCREASE tax revenue! Let’s hope the Republican Florida legislators are smarter this time? Don’t bet on it though?
January 30, 2022 at 4:57 pm
Yes, they have over $4 billion in reserves thanks to America’s Gov,
This extra monies only will add to that. You can’t beat the whiz kid.
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