Florida’s infamous boom-and-bust economy could be entering a more moderate phase in the next few years, according to chief state economist Amy Baker.
“We’ve finally entered a period of stability,” Baker told reporters Friday. “Between the great recession and the boom before that, it was like one shock after another, either an extreme positive or an extreme negative. So finally, we’ve entered a period where everything is still gradual compared to past recoveries. But it is clearly on the steady, upward path, so we’re able to see that and predict that much better.”
That could mean larger budget surplus, which will feed of projected available general revenue of $27.3 billion for 2014-2015, a 4.4 percent increase from this year, or an additional $1.15 billion.
“The big financial shocks that we’ve been having aren’t there in the most recent data,” Baker said during a Friday meeting of state budget officials establishing quarterly projections for the state’s $74 billion budget. “So this gives us a lot more certainty in making the forecast.”
Baker did offer one caveat: that old sequester bugaboo, the federal across-the-board federal government spending cuts that went into effect March 1.
“We had thought it would be a slow unfolding of its effect because the greatest impacts are coming from all these contracts and they take a while to work through,” Baker said. “But in addition to that, federal agencies had reserves, federal agencies had different strategies to put into place that kind of mitigated (the sequester). So the impact is still ahead of us.”
Midway through Friday’s meeting, forecasters estimated that Florida’s revenues were 7.2 percent higher than last year through June, with a sizable 5.7 percent jump coming in sales tax collections and an 82.6 percent jump in documentary stamp collections, which reflects an improving housing market.
Just don’t call the recovery a boom, at least not yet, Baker said.
"I really wouldn’t use the word boom,” she said. “When you look at the data, we’ve seen some really good growth in some of these things. We’re starting at such a low point that we’re still not back to normal. We’re a third of the (doc stamp) collections that we saw in 2006. It’s definitely an improvement, because we were down to 25 percent of those levels, but we’re nowhere near boom levels.”