Florida TaxWatch: State revenue expected to exceed pre-recession highs

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In its latest budget report, Florida TaxWatch has some good news for the state’s economy, which has been rebounding from the 2008 Great Recession.

Florida legislators will have up to $30 billion in General Revenue to work with next year, says the non-profit government watchdog Florida TaxWatch, which examined a potential state budget for the 2015 legislative session.

For the first time, Florida’s General Revenue in 2014 could exceed the pre-recession high of 2005-06, with continued growth between 4-5 percent annually through 2017-18.

After this month’s GR Estimating Conference — that projected budget for fiscal year 2015-2016 at $141.6 million less than expected — the privately supported think tank that investigates government spending issued its latest Budget Watch report.

Estimators credit the lowered forecast to normal fluctuations, not any expected weaknesses in the economy. Final budget estimates for next year budget will be in March.

For the fiscal year ending June 30, 2014, actual GR collections also fell short of projections made March 2014 by $106 million. Revenue estimates for this fiscal year also dropped by nearly $84.1 million, while estimations for the sales tax, the largest source of General Revenue, were increased.

Corporate income taxes and real estate taxes (such as documentary stamp and intangibles taxes) all revised lower.

“Florida is now in the middle of its largest-ever state budget, which is expected to grow even larger next year,” said Florida TaxWatch CEO Dominic Calabro. “Florida is experiencing steady recovery and growth and our revenues have finally recovered from the recession.”

As state revenue continues to grow, future budgets may be a little “tighter than expected,” added Vice President Kurt Wenner, who oversees Tax Research for Florida TaxWatch.

“If legislators want to keep the same level of reserves there are now, there will be only $43 million more GR available than was spent this year, which will likely result in increased competition to fund social programs, provide tax cuts, and increase investment in core government services, such as education and health care,” Wenner said.

Florida TaxWatch budget projections for both fiscal years 2014-15 and 2015-16 are now available at FloridaTaxWatch.org.

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Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.