State surplus money 'gone' because of Irma – Florida Politics (blog)
The Legislature’s chief economist has told lawmakers that next year’s relatively tiny budget surplus will be erased because of costs from Hurricane Irma.
She explained that extra costs to the state from last year’s hurricanes, Hermine and Matthew, cost $76.2 million, meaning a projected $52 million surplus for fiscal year 2018-19 is “gone.”
Not that that was much to begin with for a state budget that’s roughly $83 billion.
When state Rep. Bill Hager, a Delray Beach Republican, asked Baker for a 1-sentence summary on Irma’s effect on Florida’s finances, she answered: “It’s going to make fiscal year 2018-19, which was bearable, much worse.”
But state Sen. Bill Galvano, a Bradenton Republican slated to become Senate President in 2018-20, said the current outlook was “not based on present day affairs … and based on dubious assumptions.”
“It’s not a surprise where we are going in terms of deficits,” he later told reporters. “But there’s a lot more digging (to be done) to have an accurate number.”
In other highlights, Baker said:
— The state’s overall economy has returned to normal, with the “caveat” that construction is lagging behind. Tourism, however, is growing, with 119 million visitors last year. That’s good, because the financial outlook depends on 4.5 percent growth per year in tourism, which rebounds quickly from “adverse” events like hurricanes.
— The state’s gambling settlement with the Seminole Tribe over blackjack also allowed $550 million to be released into state coffers for next fiscal year, which runs July 1-June 30.
— Moreover, “our state reserves are strong,” mentioning $3.6 billion in safekeeping. But of that, only $1.46 billion is available to gird the books.
— PreK-12 education funding is