Pew reports show mixed picture of Florida fiscal outlook

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A series of reports and data visualizations presented by the Pew Charitable Trusts shows Florida to be among the strongest in its fiscal recovery, while being among the weakest in its collection of state taxes.

In 2012, federal grants accounted for an average of about one-third of total state revenue. But there is large variation. Alaska rings in about 20 percent of its revenue from federal sources, the least in the nation, while almost half (45 percent) of Mississippi’s budget is drawn from Washington.

Florida falls at about the middle. While federal shares of state budgets dropped a few points between 2010 and 2012, Florida’s share actually went up. Even while rejecting federal funds for trains, exchanges, and who knows what else.

Comparing fiscal year 2011 with its 10-year pre-recession average, Arizona saw the greatest increase (13 percent) in its share of federal dollars. The next largest increases were in Louisiana, New Mexico, Michigan, and Florida.

Florida’s spending as a share of personal income has fallen for each of the past four years, from about 7 percent in 2008 to just under 6 percent in 2011.

In 2011, Arizona spent a smaller share of its own funds than any other year since 1961, and Florida’s state-sourced spending was at its lowest level since 1986.

That said, Florida’s fiscal outlook has some ups and downs. On the downside, Florida is one of just seven states where debt is a larger liability than total unfunded retirement costs, which include pensions and retiree health care combined.

But on the upside, Florida could last substantially more days running on state reserve funds than the national average.

With $3.2 billion in reserve, Florida could run for 46.6 days — greater than the state average of 29.9 days. By comparison, Alaska could run for 794 days, while Illinois would be shut down in just 1.8 days, California in 3.3 days, and Arkansas in a mind-boggling zero.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.