A rare sighting at the state Capitol: Black inkby John Kennedy | September 12th, 2012
With Florida’s tax collections on the rise and several rounds of spending cuts having sharply shrunk services, state lawmakers should see something they haven’t eyed in more than five years:
Amy Baker, coordinator of the Legisature’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research, told a legislative panel Wednesday that revenue should outstrip spending next year by just over $71.3 million — even when lawmakers tuck away $1 billion in reserves.
“We are on track and things are moving as we expect them to move at this point,” Baker told the Legislative Budget Commission.
A year ago, Baker gave the panel a similar optimistic forecast – but included some cautions that ultimately came true. At the time, consumer confidence was darkening — unlike the current mood — and Florida’s revenues eventually crumbled in subsequent months.
Lawmakers entered last session with more than a $1 billion budget gap — and more cuts ensued.
Plenty of uncertainties remain, Baker said. But so far numbers show the state, “consistently in good shape.”
After cutting millions from the state budget when the recession hardened in 2007, lawmakers have dealt with shortfalls each of the past five years through program cuts and layoffs of thousands of workers across state and local governments.
The Legislature, however, has also sought to squirrel away dollars when they could – and completed the current year $69.9 billion budget with an additional $1 billion in reserves, a level that lawmakers have said they want to maintain.
Senate Budget Chairman J.D. Alexander, R-Lake Wales, who has guided much of the budget-cutting of recent years and will leave office in November, said Baker’s report was good to hear. But he added that sizing up the state of Florida’s economy, “We’re not out of the woods yet.”