The savviest number-crunchers in state government are shaking their heads again.
Gov. Rick Scott's office said Wednesday that Scott stands by his statement on Fox News Monday that the state would have a surplus of $8 billion if the Legislature adopts what he calls a "continuation budget" with no tax cuts and no boost in per-pupil funding for schools.
"He meant to say $8 billion. It is $8 billion," spokeswoman Jackie Schutz said. She said that when she clarified the point Tuesday in response to questions and said the surplus was $1.8 billion, she misunderstood the reporter's question and that $8 billion is correct. (The $1.8 billion is the figure used by state economists).
Scott's office declined requests by the Times/Herald to document how it arrived at a number that legislators consider outlandishly high.
Scott's budget director, Cynthia Kelly, is an experienced and respected veteran of state budgeting. But no one -- no one -- in the legislative branch is suggesting that Florida has an $8 billion surplus. The most detailed and reliable revenue projections, detailed in a March financial outlook statement by state economists, suggest that the state could have $3.8 billion more general tax revenue to build next year's budget.
The outlook statement, produced by the Economic and Demographic Research unit, says that because of improved economic conditions, the projected amount of general tax revenue available for next year's budget would be $30.774.7 billion. That's $3.8 billion more than the current year but it includes a projected surplus of $1.8 billion that would be left unspent at the end of the fiscal year on June 30.