Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Lawmakers Get Revenue Boost Ahead of Budget Talks; by Lloyd Dunkelberger

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Lawmakers Get Revenue Boost Ahead of Budget Talks; by Lloyd Dunkelberger

Article excerpt

Byline: News Service of Florida

TALLAHASSEE -- A surge in hurricane-recovery building and a change in the way the state collects gambling payments from the Seminole Tribe will give lawmakers a little fiscal wiggle room as they negotiate a new $87 billion state budget.

State analysts on Friday adjusted estimates for revenue collections upward by about $462 million, including $181 million this year and $280.5 million for the fiscal year that will start July 1.

The bulk of the increase is one-time, non-recurring money, which will limit its use in the state budget. But it can be a positive factor as Senate and House members work out differences in their budget bills, which were passed Thursday.

"It was money they weren't expecting," said Amy Baker, coordinator of the Legislature's Office of Economic and Demographic Research. "It's going to be nonrecurring, which comes with all the issues associated with that. It's good news."

But she also said "it doesn't really alter the shape" of the longer-term financial challenges facing the state.

A major factor in the increase is explained by the economic cycle Florida goes through when it is hit by a major hurricane like Irma, a powerful storm that impacted the majority of the state in September.

In the immediate aftermath of such a storm, state spending increases and sales-tax collections drop. But then recovery begins and residents, aided by insurance payments, rebuild and repair their property. That increases sales taxes, the state's single-largest revenue source.

"Hurricane Irma suppressed collections during the initial emergency in September while boosting collections in the recovery months as rebuilding began in earnest," according to the new estimate.

The adjusted forecast shows an increase in sales tax collections this year of $189 million, with about two-thirds of that related to recovery activities. …

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