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Tallying the economic impact of oil disaster will take time

With no hard data to discern the economic impact of the oil disaster on businesses, schools and government services, a task force got to work Monday on collecting and measuring the cost.
"I'm not sure what our approach will be right now. We're trying to assess the economic loss of individuals, businesses and government,'' said Jerry McDaniel, budget director for Gov. Charlie Crist who heads up the Economic Impact Assessment work group of the state's oil spill task force.

The group intends to rely on the states’s Revenue Estimating Conference, which normally assesses the impact of economic swings on state revenues, to determine the impact of the economic loss to the state from the oil crisis, McDaniel said. The state will then send the check to BP to reimburse the loss or mitigate the damages.

“We don’t have any data,” said Christian Weiss, budget analyst for Gov. Charlie Crist and a member of the estimating conference. “It’s unfortunately much too early.’’

Earlier reports from the University of Central Florida, for example, were "based soley on what-ifs,'' McDaniel said.

Lisa Echeverri, Director of the Department of Revenue, said that while revenue estimates normally are done for the state's planning and budgeting process, the goal of a revenue conference on oil will be to support the claims process. It will involve collecting information on fees that are normally not tracked, she said. For example, the oil disaster may have forced changes in business licensures, lottery sales, fishing fees, state park entry fees and other revenues the state depends on but normally doesn’t record when it’s lost.

The state is tracking how many businesses are struggling to pay their taxes and are working out payment agreements for them.

University Chancellor Frank Brogan told the group that the university system is seeking $100 million from BP in research money and, if received, can use that money to provide data for many of the economic losses the work group seeks.