Catherine Dolinski

September 8, 2009

State will be $2.65 billion short next of covering “critical and high priority” needs next year
 by Catherine Dolinski, Tallahassee bureau

Florida will come up $2.65 billion short of covering its most “critical and high priority needs” in 2010-2011 – a deficit expected to swell to nearly $5.5 billion the following year, as one-time federal stimulus bucks dry up.

That was the preliminary estimate that Amy Baker, head of the state Office of Economic and Demographic Research, laid out today for the joint Legislative Budget Commission.
Of the $2.65 billion, $923 billion is deemed “critical” funding. The rest covers “high priority” items like the Medicaid Medically Needy and Meds AD programs, which traditionally appear in the state budget.
Rep. David Rivera, who chairs the LBC, said afterward that lawmakers clearly have their work cut out for them, but demurred when a reporter asked where the money will come from. “We always expected that it was going to be a difficult and challenging budget year,” said Rivera, R-Miami.

The LBC will receive additional input from Baker’s office later this month, after which the commission will finalize its three-year outlook.
Baker also noted that the while the budget for the current fiscal year includes a cushion of $667 million left unspent, there are deficits in several areas including Medicaid and Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten. Assuming that lawmakers want to back-fill those areas with existing revenue, she said, that will reduce the state’s unspent cash to $381.4 million.