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Amy Baker

Lawmakers likely to face tough budget

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A key economist offered a sobering message Friday to state lawmakers: Forget having extra cash for next year’s budget. A long-range financial analysis projected that lawmakers would have a relatively slim $52 million surplus as they put together the 2018-2019 budget. But that was before Hurricane Irma blew through the state early this week.

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State surplus money ‘gone’ because of Irma

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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. Amy Baker, director of the Office of Economic and Demographic Research, presented a working version of the state’s long-range financial outlook to the Joint Legislative Budget Commission on Friday. 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.”

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State economists expect an additional 1,700 PreK-12 students next year

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House and Senate budget negotiators who’ll begin conference negotiations next week will have to account for more than 1,700 additional students, state economists concluded Friday. That may not sound like a lot in the context of the more than 2.8 million kids enrolled in the PreK-12 system. Still, it adds up to nearly $12.3 million under the least generous formula pending in the Legislature. “At this point, any difference is painful to them,” Amy Baker, head of the Office of…

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Cost of tax exemption for medical marijuana would be minimal

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No need to worry about the hit to general revenues from the Senate’s medical marijuana sales tax exemption. The state’s Revenue Estimating Conference estimated Friday that the bill might reduce tax receipts, but not enough to notice — even when accounting for the non-state residents who would qualify for cannabis cards if the bill becomes law. “We felt like there might be a few snowbirds coming in, but we didn’t think that would be a lot,” said Amy Baker, director…

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Revenue conference prices sales tax exemption for medical marijuana

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Legislation that would exempt medical marijuana from sales taxes would cost $24.3 million per year to Florida’s tax receipts, according to an estimate by state economists Friday. HB 1397, by Fort Myers Republican Ray Rodrigues, is one of five medical marijuana bills to enact Amendment 2 that are circulating in the Legislature. It would impose a number of restrictions on marijuana use — no smoking, vaping, or edibles, for example, although a terminally ill patient could vape. The bill would take effect upon…

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Florida’s revenue picture improves a little — but not enough to really matter

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The Legislature will have $271 million more than it expected to spend this year, but close to 90 percent of the new money is a one-shot deal, and won’t help budget writers with ongoing demands upon a state budget projected at close to $83 billion. State economists arrived at their new forecast during a revenue estimating conference Friday. Total general revenues will near $32.4 billion, representing dependable flows of money to pay for most of the state’s needs, not counting taxes pledged to…

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House to Enterprise Florida: Drop dead

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The Enterprise Florida economic development organization and a multitude of business incentives would be eradicated under legislation passed by the Florida House Friday. The bill (HB 7005) passed on an 87-28 vote, with some members voting against their respective parties’ position. The measure was pushed by Speaker Richard Corcoran, who has derided Enterprise Florida as a dispenser of “corporate welfare.” But the legislation goes to a Senate that largely backs incentives and wants to keep the organization that, though a public-private partnership, doles out mostly…

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