BRADENTON, Fla. - Revenues supporting Florida's budget continue to come in well below estimates, with April's collections nearly $100 million less than what forecasters predicted just a month earlier.

Lawmakers say they are working closely with the governor to avert a deficit in the final two months of the current fiscal year. They have already cut billions from the budget.

"As the national economic downturn continues to impact Florida, the House and Senate are working closely with the governor's office to ensure we receive adequate revenues in May and June to fund the state's approved budget for fiscal year 2007-08," said House Policy and Budget Committee chairman Ray Sansom, R-Destin. "General revenue collections have continued to be below our most recent projections, eroding the $322 million we saved to buffer the state's budget against such shortfalls."

In March, the state's revenue estimating conference revised revenue predictions supporting the general fund. Revenues have been hurt by declining real estate sales and less new home construction. More recently the decline has been influenced by the lack of big-ticket purchases, such as automobiles, that help boost sales tax collections.

Forecasters estimated revenues for April would come in at $2.476 billion. But actual collections were $2.382 billion, or $93.8 million under estimate. Sales taxes - the largest revenue source supporting the general fund because Florida doesn't have a state income tax - came in at $1.65 billion, or $49.6 million under the estimate for April.

Total fiscal year-to-date collections are $19.87 billion, or $140.7 million less than what was estimated just in March. So far this year, total general fund revenues are down 8.2% over the same period last year.

In response to Florida's rapidly declining economy, Moody's Investors Service on March 19 placed a negative outlook on the state's Aa1 general obligation debt rating. The state's GOs are rated AAA by Standard & Poor's and AA-plus by Fitch Ratings, both with stable outlooks.

 

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