TALLAHASSEE — Economists on Thursday slightly lowered their forecast of tax dollars flowing into the state, but still project lawmakers to be on track to have at least a $1 billion surplus for the next budget.
Members of the Revenue Estimating Conference lowered their outlook, last made in March, due in part to changes in revenues such as corporate income taxes, real-estate taxes and highway safety fees.
Chief economist Amy Baker, who directs the Legislature’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research, said the economy remains in good shape, calling the drop “uneventful.”
“Growth in revenue, even though it’s a little less than where we started today, is still $1 billion,” Baker said.
The forecast of general revenue plays a critical role for state lawmakers as they designate tax dollars to schools, health programs and prisons in Florida’s annual budget. Lawmakers will meet in the spring to draw up a budget for the 2015-16 fiscal year, which starts July 1.
The economists look at numerous indicators to estimate revenue over several years. The new report shows that revenue during the recently ended 2013-14 fiscal year was $106.7 million below a March estimate. Revenue for the current fiscal year is projected to be $49.2 million higher than the earlier estimate. And revenue for the 2015-16 fiscal year is projected to be $84.1 million lower than what was estimated in March.
Sen. Andy Gardiner, who is slated to become Senate president after the November election, called the new estimates a positive sign for the state’s economy.
“It was not long ago that with each successive estimating conference we learned how much we had to cut from the budget in order to stay in the black,” Gardiner said.