TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida legislators, already set to cut as much as $500 million from existing taxes and fees, got some additional good news on Wednesday.
State economists drew up new estimates that show state tax collections will grow 5.2 percent in the next year and should continue to grow between now and 2017.
The bottom line is that it should grow an estimated budget surplus to roughly $1.2 billion — a far cry from recent years where legislators grappled with cutting money to schools or health care.
"Today's estimate confirms Florida's economy is growing as businesses and families across our state continue to recover from the impacts of a lengthy recession," said Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart and the Senate budget chief.
Legislators are already poised to use part of the expected surplus on several cuts in existing taxes and fees, including a rollback on auto registration fees that the Republican-controlled Legislature increase five years ago. Some of the extra money could also be used to boost spending on environmental programs or increase money spent on child welfare programs.
Rep. Seth McKeel, R-Lakeland and House budget chairman, said the additional $150 million that economists are adding to the bottom line would not "substantially" change how legislators plan to spend the extra money.
The state's main tax is the 6 percent sales tax. Collections dropped at the height of the Great Recession but have begun to rebound.
The latest forecast estimates that between July 2014 and June 2015 the state's main budget account is expected to go up by 5.2 percent to bring the overall total to nearly $27.7 billion.
Amy Baker, the head of the state's Office of Economic and Demographic Research, said that the growth has been steady, and just as important, stable. There have not been any major swings in the economic forecasts over the last year.
"It is very good news that the economy is behaving in some way that's predictable and that we can forecast well," Baker said.