It’s official: Florida faces $2 billion budget holeby John Kennedy | October 20th, 2011
Florida’s budget hole for next year was officially put at $2 billion Thursday — and the revised forecast from state economists also put it in the red through 2015.
The shortfalls reverse what had been an optimistic forecast delivered to lawmakersonly last month — by the same analysts. But that was before the European debt crisis deepened and sent shockwaves through consumer confidence across the nation, including the Sunshine State.
Tax collections “hit a wall,” in mid-summer, said Amy Baker, head of the Legislature’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research.
Baker and other analysts told the Senate Budget Committee they have downgraded earlier state revenue forecasts by $600 million for the current year and almost $1 billion for next year. Rising program costs — especially in public schools and Medicaid — also must be layered-in, resulting in what she said would be a $2 billion shortfall facing lawmakers when they begin crafting the 2012-13 budget in January.
The Senate Budget Committee took the bad news in stride Thursday. But Chairman J.D. Alexander, R-Lake Wales, said he also feared that if the economy stumbled further, tax collections wouldfall even further off projections.
“We could have more challenging numbers,” Alexander conceded, adding, “or they could be better.”