With the state's economy sagging, Florida legislators plan to return to the Capitol this fall to slash up to a billion from the state budget, a move that could force them to cut money for schools or health care.
House Speaker Marco Rubio and Senate President Ken Pruitt today ordered a special session to bring Florida's $71 billion state budget back into balance. The session could stretch from Sept. 18 to as late as Oct. 5. "We have to know we have the money budgeted for the state's expenses. And, if it continues like this, we're not sure if we will," Rubio said.
Pruitt couldn't be reached, though other senators say they're hearing that the session will take place
during the already-scheduled committee week of Sept. 17. Even though legislators passed the budget in May, collections of state sales-tax --the major fuel of the budget ---- have consistently fallen below earlier forecasts. Although Florida can borrow money for some things, the constitution requires a balanced budget.
The actual amount of budget cuts is still unclear, but legislators will likely cut expenses that recur from year to year, such as health care for the poor, and not one-time surplus cash, which is often used for roads. It's highly unlikely legislators will raise taxes, but they could raise fees such asfor business licenses. The financial picture will become clearer when state economists meet Aug. 1 to come up with new estimates that may be as much as $1.2 billion lower than initially projected.
The normally conservative forecasters had already projected that taxes on real-estate documents would decline, but they didn't seem to anticipate the fast pace of the state's economic slow-down, which is reflected in the low volume of sales statewide or declining corporate income taxes. More here.
Lawmakers did not issue the actual special session call, but instead informed legislators to prepare for the special session. Read memo here.Download special_session_announcement.pdf