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Florida gets a $327.9 million bump in tax dollars in August

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TALLAHASSEE --- As Florida lawmakers prepare to draw up a new budget, they continue to get a boost from residents and tourists spending money.

A report released Monday showed that Florida collected $327.9 million more in general revenue in August than had been projected. Much of the bump, $248.2 million, came from higher-than expected sales-tax collections.

“August collections reflect activity that largely occurred in July, which continued to benefit from the most recent round of stimulus checks to households, redirected spending from the hard-hit service sector and some consumers’ ability to draw down atypically large savings that built up during the pandemic,” said the report from the Legislature’s Office of Economic & Demographic Research.

General revenue is the most closely watched part of the state budget, as it plays a critical role in funding schools, health care and prisons. It comes into the state’s coffers from myriad sources, such as sales taxes, documentary stamp taxes on real-estate transactions and corporate income taxes.

Economists from the governor’s office and the Legislature meet periodically to update general-revenue estimates, which are then used by lawmakers in making budget decisions. With Monday’s report, Florida has topped forecast numbers for 13 straight months, coming out of the economic destruction caused by the COVID-19 pandemic in spring 2020.

In the latest estimates, the state was expected to bring in slightly more than $2.7 billion in general revenue in August. It collected about $3.028 billion, according to the report.

The largest chunk of general revenue collected during the month, nearly $2.44 billion, came from sales taxes. The next largest amount was $154.6 million in documentary-stamp taxes, $23.6 million above estimates.

The state also collected $67.8 million in corporate income taxes, $16.8 million above estimates, according to the report.

Lawmakers have started holding early meetings to work on budget issues in advance of the 2022 session, which begins in January. During the session, the House and Senate will negotiate a budget for the 2022-2023 fiscal year, which will start in July.

The Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday is slated to receive a presentation from Amy Baker, coordinator of the Office of Economic & Demographic Research, about what is known as a long-range financial “outlook” that includes projections of revenues and expenses.

While the state is bringing in more money than expected, it also faces rising costs. As an example, enrollment in the Medicaid program has increased by more than 1 million people to a total of about 4.9 million during the pandemic. That puts additional pressure on the program, which is jointly funded by the state and federal governments.