BRADENTON, Fla. — Florida's revenue estimators said the forecast for fiscal year 2014 in state general revenues was $106.7 million less than the actual tally but estimates for the current year are on track.
The year-end difference "was within the plus or minus 1% range that the conference usually attributes to random variations," forecasters said after a revenue estimating conference Aug. 7.
Total general revenues, minus refunds, were $26.19 billion in 2014 or a 3.5% increase over 2013.
For the current fiscal year, forecasters believe general fund revenues will be "essentially unchanged" from their prior forecast in March, though they will increase by $49.2 million to $27.19 billion.
Based on the Aug. 7 conference, the revised forecast estimates that general revenue collections for 2015 will exceed 2014 by $1 billion or 3.8%.
In this year's annual legislative session, state lawmakers spent most of the anticipated income reducing taxes and fees that were increased during the lean years, and lowering corporate taxes once again.
In June, Gov. Rick Scott signed the Legislature's record $77 billion budget for the current year.
The estimates adopted by the General Revenue Estimating Conference indicate continued stability in Florida's economy, said House Appropriations Committee chairman Seth McKeel, R-Lakeland.
"The very modest fluctuations in this forecast signify that the previous estimate is essentially on target," McKeel said.
For fiscal 2016, forecasters revised estimates down slightly, and expect $84.1 million fewer general revenues. Their forecast still projects growth of nearly $1.1 billion, or 3.9%.
The growth rates for following years were revised slightly upwards to 5% from 4.6% in fiscal 2017 and to and 4.7% from 4.5% in 2018.
Major factors affecting the forecast are rising sales tax collections, and downward adjustments in corporate and real estate taxes.
Sales tax collection in fiscal 2014 totaled $19.7 billion, and finally exceeded the previous peak seen in fiscal 2007. The final amount was $27 million over the amount estimated by forecasters.
Sales taxes are expected to increase by $229 million in 2015, and by $137.4 million in 2016, and "primarily reflect the experience since the last forecast and future strength in taxable sales related to tourism, motor vehicles, business purchases, and household goods," forecasters said.
Actual corporate income taxes for fiscal 2014 were $2.04 billion, and had been projected to end the year at $2.13 billion. That led to a reduction in estimates for 2015 by $151 million and in 2016 by $219 million.
Forecasters said the lower corporate taxes reflect "the belief that corporate entities are investing historic cash reserves in ways that reduce taxable income, rather than any underlying economic weakness."
The fee on real estate transactions, called the documentary stamp tax, totaled $603.7 million in 2014, while revenue forecasters predicted $623.8 million in collections. The continued sluggishness in real estate led them to decrease estimates in this sector by $36.9 million in fiscal 2015 and by $39.3 million in 2016.