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Takeaways from Tallahassee — Budget booster

The Conservation Corps of the Forgotten Coast works on a wide range of habitat restoration projects.

Budget booster

Florida’s gross domestic product is expected to increase by 4.5% this fiscal year, according to the latest estimates from state economists, down from the 7% rate the state experienced in the first and second quarters of this year.

The state GDP fell 1.7% in the first quarter of 2020 before tumbling 31.1% in the second quarter. The third quarter was a completely different story, as the state recouped nearly all of that. And the trend has been up ever since.

However, the Sunshine State’s brisk recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to slow in the coming years, to a more normal 2.5% GDP growth for the next three coming fiscal years.

Ron DeSantis outlines a budget that is expected to top $100 billion.

Florida’s economic standing is particularly notable right now, as the focus shifts to the 2022-23 fiscal year after Gov. Ron DeSantis outlined his budget proposal Thursday. His recommendations nearly hit $100 billion, with additional requests putting spending over that mark.

DeSantis finds himself with an estimated $7 billion general revenue surplus, but nearly three quarters of that is in nonrecurring dollars.

Still, the Governor has managed to set aside $15 billion in reserves in his budget proposal. Under favorable conditions, he told reporters he expects that to hit $17 billion.

Since the latest general revenue estimate, issued in August, collections have run $1.2 billion over estimates through October. Nearly two-thirds of the increase came from sales tax collections.

Contributing to the additional sales tax collections is the Wayfair bill, which is helping to bring in sales tax from more online marketplaces. However, the additional collections are coming mainly for other reasons.

The most recent round of stimulus checks has boosted household spending. However, that is expected to wane in the coming months.

And even though the pandemic is improving, the service sector is still being impacted. Spending is still being pushed more toward goods.

Inflation is also increasing sales tax collections. Higher prices mean the state is receiving more revenue, at least in the short term. In the coming months, people will likely be buying cheaper products or fewer products. Plus, more of people’s spending could end up going toward nontaxable items like food and health care.


Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Peter SchorschDrew Wilson, Renzo DowneyJason DelgadoChristine Jordan SextonTristan Wood and the staff of Florida Politics.

Take 5

The “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:

DeSantis announces $100 billion budget proposal — DeSantis has proposed a $99.7 billion “Freedom First” budget for the coming fiscal year. Touting Florida’s economic strength through the COVID-19 pandemic despite fears of an economic collapse, the Governor doubled down on his policies since March 2020 while unveiling his proposals for the 2022-23 fiscal year. The economy is “working on all cylinders,” DeSantis said. “Freedom works in Florida. We’re proud of that,” he said. “We’re proud of being viewed as the ‘free state,’ and I think that the economic results are something that have been very, very positive.”

Fried responds to ethics report — Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried preemptively fired back at Florida Commission on Ethics findings regarding her financial disclosures. The Commission announced Wednesday it found probable cause Fried violated state law when she failed to initially disclose $400,000 in lobbying income when she ran for office. “A disgraced Republican Party official (Leon County Republican Party Chair Evan Power) filed a false and fraudulent ethics complaint against Commissioner Fried,” said Fried campaign spokesperson Drew Godinich. “Consistent with the administration’s regular practice of feeding false information to its subordinate agencies, Commissioner Fried is being attacked for following the law and showing transparency, exactly the opposite of what Republican Ron DeSantis and his cohorts do every day.” Notably, Power’s name was misspelled in the Fried camp’s statement.

DeSantis boosts health care funding in budget — DeSantis’ health care budget proposal is $1.2 billion over current levels. The proposal increases Medicaid rates for providers that care for the elderly and people with intellectual and developmental disabilities while keeping the base payments made to Florida hospitals essentially unchanged. The increases are driven in part by a spike in enrollment, with economists predicting that more than 5 million people will be in the program by the end of the year.

UF professors report details retaliation fears — University of Florida professors say fear of upsetting politicians, who control their purses, pervades the campus to the point that race-related references have been edited out of course materials, and faculty members have been restricted from participating in outside activities that challenge the priorities of the Governor’s administration, according to a faculty report delivered Monday. “To a certain extent, faculty often engaged in self-censorship and chose not to ‘rock the boat’ for fear of retaliation,” the report said. The report released Monday comes as the university has been accused over the past two months of stifling academic freedom to appease state politicians.

Gun control legislation piles up in Tallahassee — Last week’s school shooting massacre in suburban Detroit prompted Sen. Tina Polsky this week to highlight four bills she previously introduced to prevent tragedies like that from happening in Florida — again. Polsky filed four bills in October and November that would tighten gun regulations in several ways, by addressing gun construction, ammunition and gun storage, as well as adding those deemed mentally incompetent to a database that would alert law enforcement that they shouldn’t have a gun. “It shouldn’t take yet another mass shooting at a high school to deal with the gun violence brought about by irresponsible and reckless gun owners,” Polsky said.

FloridaPolitics, excerpt posted on  SouthFloridaReporter.comDec. 11, 2021

Republished with permission