Florida’s state forecasters estimate that the 2019 Legislature will have a $223.4 million budget surplus when it puts together the state’s new spending plan for FY 2019-20. However, this assumes the Legislature will transfer nearly $400 million from trust funds—money earmarked by law for specific uses—into the General Revenue (GR) Fund.
Florida’s General Revenue (GR) Estimating Conference met on August 16 and forecast that the state would collect $13.1 million less than expected in FY2018-19 and $19.5 million less in FY2019-20. This reduces the estimated GR that the Legislature will have for the next state budget by $32.6 million, a change of less than one-tenth of 1 percent.
Actual net GR collections for the fiscal year that that just ended exceeded the last estimate (February 2018, adjusted for legislative changes) by $205.2 million (0.66 percent). This will be added to the unobligated FY2018-19 GR (cash reserve) balance of $1.026 billion to be carried forward to the next budget year (FY2019-20). These numbers, along with the current cycle of the state’s Estimating Conferences, can begin to define the fiscal outlook for the next state budget that will be developed by the 2019 Legislature.
The 2018 Legislature passed a $88.727 billion state budget—the General Appropriations Act (GAA)—which recently took effect on July 1. But that doesn’t tell the whole story of what was spent by lawmakers last session. While the GAA price tag gets all the publicity, other appropriations can go largely unnoticed.
The $88.7 billion budget passed by the Florida House and Senate for FY2018-19 contains 87 appropriations items qualifying as Budget Turkeys worth $147.5 million. Since projects were not added to the budget during conference this year, most of these were flagged because they circumvented established selection processes. This includes 56 local transportation projects worth nearly $120 million. These member projects, for which there is no formal evaluation and selection process, bypass the transportation planning process, potentially diverting funds from projects that are in the DOT work program.