It looks like the 2015 Florida Legislature will have a budget surplus for FY2015-16, meaning major budget cuts should not be needed and there should be some money left over for new initiatives and/or tax cuts. After funding a continuation budget, including expected cost increases in current programs, it is anticipated that there will be $336.2 million (including an allowance for $1 billion in cash reserves) in General Revenue left over.
This is the fourth straight year in which there has been a projected surplus heading into the legislative session, but this surplus is much smaller than the $845.7 million surplus projected last year. Still, the continuation of the current string of surplus is a welcome change from the previous four years, which saw shortfalls averaging $2.7 billion.
These new estimates are contained in the constitutionally-required Long-Range Financial Outlook that was recently adopted by the Legislative Budget Commission. This summer’s round of state estimating conferences for revenue and expenditure needs was the basis for the Outlook, which is produced annually by the legislative Office of Economic and Demographic Research and the House and Senate Appropriations Committees. The Outlook looks ahead three years and focuses on General Revenue (GR), the funds that can be spent by the Legislature on anything and that are a major source of funding for education, human services, and criminal justice. The Outlook also considers trust funds that can affect the need for GR spending in certain areas of the budget.
There is no projected shortfall through the three- year horizon of the Outlook. This Budget Watch focuses on the upcoming budget year, FY2015-16.