The bills passed by the 2020 Legislature included many recommended or supported by Florida TaxWatch research. The following Legislative Wrap-Up discusses all these bills and more. It shows what passed and what did not—both issues supported by Florida TaxWatch research and other important bills we monitored all session long to keep our members and the public informed on our Legislative Update webpage.
The 2020 tax package (HB 7097) was amended many times as it moved through the process. At first, it grew topping $230 million in tax savings at one point. Then, citing a need to keep more money in reserves for COVID-19 response, it started getting smaller. The following is a description of all the provisions that were in the many versions of HB 7097. This report starts with what’s in the final and follows with what dropped out along the way.
With a little over two weeks remaining in the 2020 Legislative Session, there is still much to be decided about how more than $90 billion in taxpayer money will be spent next year. The General Appropriations Act is the only bill the Legislature is constitutionally required to pass. Budget conference negotiations will formally begin soon, likely next week. Since lawmakers are constitutionally required to wait 72 hours before a final vote, a mutually agreed-upon budget must be produced by Tuesday, March 10 in order for an on-time finish of the session on Friday, March 13. As we prepare to head into conference, this analysis looks at what is in the two budgets and what the major differences are.
The General Revenue (GR) Estimating Conference met on January 15 to develop a new revenue forecast for Florida. These estimates of available GR are used by the Legislature in meeting its constitutional mandate to pass a balanced budget. The new estimate provides the Governor and Legislature some good news.
It appears the 2020 Florida Legislature will have a little money left over after funding a continuation budget for the next fiscal year, but lawmakers need to be careful about spending it. State economists estimate that there will be a General Revenue (GR) budget surplus of $289.3 after funding the base budget plus “critical needs” and “high priority needs”—a conservative continuation budget.
Loss of Indian Gaming Revenue Puts a Dent in General Revenue; State to Refund $542 Million in Excess Corporate Income Taxes
The General Revenue (GR) Estimating Conference met on August 14 to develop a new revenue forecast for Florida. It was a challenging and complex conference for the state’s economists. The uncertainty surrounding corporate income tax collections, the loss of Indian gaming revenue, a weaker economic forecast, and the impact of Hurricane Michael were some of the factors they were dealing with.
An analysis of the transparency and accountability of the budget process
The 2019 Budget Turkey Watch Report: An Analysis of the Transparency and Accountability of the Budget Process is the result of an annual independent review of Florida’s new budget by Florida TaxWatch. The report started in 1983, and having been published annually since 1986, promotes additional oversight and integrity in the state’s budgeting process based on the principle that: because money appropriated by the Legislature belongs to the taxpayers of Florida, the process must be transparent and accountable, and every appropriation should receive deliberation and public debate. The budget review identifies appropriations that circumvent transparency and accountability standards in public budgeting.
The 2019 Florida Legislative Session is over. Lawmakers approved 197 bills this year, setting a record for the fewest bills passed (at least since 2001, and likely long before that). The amount of bills passed has been steadily declining. This is probably a good thing, but it also reflects the use of “trains,” strike-all amendments, and adding brand new issues to bills at the last minute, things that certainly occurred this year. Still, there was some good legislation that passed and, as always, some missed opportunities and some great ideas that became less so as the process wore on.
On Thursday, May 2, the Senate took up the tax package passed by the House (HB 7123) and adopted a strike-all amendment that put the Senate package on the bill. It kept many of the provisions (with some changes), added some new provisions, and removed one controversial provision, and changed another.
There is an affordable housing crisis in Florida. It is truly a nationwide problem, but it is especially acute in the Sunshine State. The availability of affordable housing for lower-income families in Florida is lower than almost all other states, and most of those at the lower end of the income scale that do have places to live are overburdened with housing costs they cannot afford.