Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Legislature face a $1.5 billion revenue shortfall, state economists said Tuesday, complicating a budget picture in which health care and education costs are expected to rise as much as $1 billion.
The new revenue forecast is $600 million lower than state economists projected in March for the 2011-12 budget and $968.3 million lower than predicted for 2012-13.
The culprit, said Amy Baker, director of the Legislature’s Economic and Demographic Research, is a state economy that is “more anemic than originally anticipated.”
The projections are not what lawmakers had in mind last session when they cut regulations, slashed spending and eliminated more than 4,000 state jobs to balance the $69 billion budget. Legislators slashed $4 billion from schools, employee benefits, environmental programs and health care on the promise that less state spending would do more to stabilize a faltering economy.
Lawmakers also turned away billions in federal transportation and health care money, and tried to boost the economy by including $70 million in tax incentives for the new Department of Economic Opportunity and $25 million for a three-day sales-tax holiday for back-to-school supplies in August.
But the tax breaks and attempts at austerity couldn’t stop the decline in revenues in every area of state government as the pace of the housing and employment recovery “has significantly slowed,” Baker said. The state will collect $643.9 million in additional revenues this year over 2010-11, she said. That’s a 2.9 percent increase. Story here.