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$223 Million Surplus Reflects Florida's Sound 'Conservative Financial Decisions'

September 15, 2018 - 6:00am

Florida lawmakers adopted a new long-range financial forecast on Friday that could bode well when they meet next spring to write a new state budget.

The financial outlook, which was adopted unanimously by the Legislative Budget Commission, projects a $223 million surplus for the next budget year, which begins July 1. It is a modest surplus, representing only 0.6 percent of the estimated $34.6 billion in general revenue projected for next year.

Senate Appropriations Chairman Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, who chairs the joint budget panel of House and Senate members, said the positive numbers are a sign of Florida’s strong economy and the “conservative financial decisions” made by lawmakers.

“We’re pleased to see we will have a modest budget surplus going forward to next year and we’re very pleased to see the strong economy that is shown in the data,” Bradley said. “Things are really moving in the right direction. Florida is on a roll.”

Sen. Bill Galvano, a Bradenton Republican who takes over as Senate president in November, also noted that last year’s forecast, which makes projections over a three-year period, had shown a potential revenue shortfall of more than $1.1 billion in 2019-20, in contrast with the new positive projection.

Amy Baker, head of the Legislature’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research, which oversees the preparation of the annual forecast, outlined a series of indicators --- including a 1.45 percent annual population increase, a low unemployment rate and a job-growth rate above the national average --- showing the strength of the state economy.

Baker said a key element in the state’s economy is the strong tourism sector, which accounted for about 13 percent of the state’s largest revenue source --- sale tax collections --- in 2016-17. She said the strength of that sector has helped offset some elements of the economy that have not fully recovered, including the construction industry.

But she also added a note of caution, saying the influx of tourists could be influenced by things such as the state’s current struggle with toxic algae and red tide, which are impacting at least 14 coastal counties.

If revenues dip, the forecast shows the state budget has strong reserves, with nearly $3.5 billion in unspent funds in the current budget.

While a small surplus is projected in 2019-20, the forecast also shows a revenue shortfall of $48 million in 2020-21, growing to $457 million in the third year.

Baker said one factor that could boost state revenue in the budget process would be using the full annual increase in local school property taxes, known as the “required local effort.” It could generate more than $900 million over the three-year period, she said.

The House and Senate have differed over the use of those funds in recent budget negotiations, with the current agreement restricting the increase to new construction.

Bradley said the Senate will continue to advocate keeping the tax rate frozen but using property tax increases based on new construction as well as increases in property values.

“It’s not a tax increase. We’ve plowed this ground before. And I look forward to having those discussions (with the House),” Bradley said.

Lawmakers will pass a new state budget in their 2019 session that begins in March. The current budget is just under $90 billion.


I don't think this is something to be proud of. You've done it by denying access to health care for 700,000 people, gutting environmental protections, and making us 47th in educational funding. You get what you pay for.

Amen! Absolutely on the mark! The 'Shouldabenafelon' Scott administration has simply refused to adequately fund the NEEDS you mention ... as well as cutting $700 million from the budgets of the dozen or so water management districts in Florida ... and everybody can see how that's turning out!

Not like Scott and the GOP have stripped over $500 million dollars a year over the last 7 years from environmental protection by our water management districts (remind me what those toxins from algae are in the air along the southern coasts and how $3.5 billion might have helped prevent that problem) . . . . . not like we routinely underfund public education (what's our rank, oh yeah, 42nd in per capita funding) . . . . . . and furthermore we allow private schools to receive public dollars, even for new, private construction . . . . . . . and I'm sure we haven't given corporations extra tax dollars at the cost of social programs, medicaid, and health care (we're only ranked 48th in health-care performance) . . . . . . . yeah, we have a surplus, so where's the GOP going to squander it this year . . . . Sound Conservative Financial Decisions, indeed . . . . . . on the backs of our citizens and children . . . . . . . . . . . . . PATHETIC . . .

The creation of environmental problems for Okeechobee began way back when the Democrat majority in the Florida legislature requested Congress add the Caloosahatchie River and Lake Okeechobee Drainage Area to the Flood Control Act of 1946 for drainage improvement and flood control along North New River Canal in Broward County. That was the first drainage project for Okeechobee with many others to follow. In 1986 while trying to resolve the same issues we face today with the Lake by de-channeling the Kissimmee River which for the purposes of flood control had been straightened into cement-lined channels. These cement channels didn't allow nutrients to disperse before reaching the lake the way the natural meandering of the river had done. To make matters worse, building the Herbert Hoover *** greatly reduced the lake's natural shoreline and marsh areas which reduced the lake's overall surface area by 1/3. Construction of the levee system as well as drainage and development to the south reduced the natural expanse of the Florida Everglades’ wetland area by 50%, constraining water flow south from Lake Okeechobee.. So if you must to place blame for the environmental disaster that is Okeechobee it should be at the feet those who continue to drain Florida for flooding and development more so than a single industry. The reason Big Sugar gets scapegoated is the #FakeEnvironmentalists are still upset that the 2008 deal to buy out the sugar industry failed to materialize. That was their ''the holy grail'' of Glades restoration and they didn't care that the land to be bought was in the wrong place for their goal.. Ever since it has been their goal to blame big sugar for all of Okeechobee's woes...

Yes, the Everglades are half the size they were . . . . . . . I'm a scientist who worked on everglades restoration and related Florida and international environmental issues for almost thirty years . . . I know the history, and the facts . . . . . . please note that my comments said nothing about U.S. Sugar or the Coop (and you may want to relook at your facts about all those "cement-lined channels" as the regional system run by SFWMD basically only contains concrete spill channels immediately at the structures themselves) . . . . the history of how the current system came about does not excuse Scott for the chaos on environmental protection and real solutions that he (and the GOP) have created over the past 8-20 years . . . . . . that's what's truly . . . . . . PATHETIC

What it means is the have to balance the budget by law or they would have borrowed to the hilt and gave it away as corporate welfare, for the 1%, their buddies they do so well...……………...Just look at the Repub congress doubling the deficit from Obama to $T/yr to pay for tax cuts for corporations, 1%...………..Locally they have starved public schools while piling it on private schools including giving them all of Public school maintenance fund , leaving nothing to fix public schools...………….All while having NO oversight, accountability of charter schools which fail often...……

Elect Gillum and kiss any surplus goodbye, his criminal self dealing, his crooked kickback bromance buddies...but you lefties already know and approve of that. Your goal is in line with the destruction of all that is good and ushering in all that is Satanic and bad just like California...right? Just to be fair to you lefties let's focus on the positive things Gillum brings to the election and the consideration for your vote: Well he's black - and I heard that he's also black - in addition to that he's black - and in case anyone has not noticed he's black - and put the rumors to rest Snoops just confirmed that Gillum is indeed black - his family also confirmed that Gillum has been black all his life - during the time Gillum attended an Historically Black College he was indeed black - I could go on and on but just to sum it all up: In closing the most important consideration for your vote is that Gillum is indeed black. Oh did I mention that he is black?

Some of the "conservative fiscal decisions" included gutting the state DEP, eliminating water quality/science staff at the Water Management Districts. Choices have consequences. What will it cost to recover (loss of tourism, health risks, decreased property values (which should limit increases in appraised value in affected areas, lost jobs)? The state doesn't want to raise your taxes, they want your local county commission to do it for them. Use the "full annual increase in local school property taxes" means raising taxes.

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