State Politics

Crist not worried about new state revenue estimate

TALLAHASSEE — More bad budget news is expected from the state’s Friday-the-13th revenue estimate, but Gov. Charlie Crist kept on his usual happy face Thursday.

Crist said he’s certain federal stimulus dollars will help rescue Florida from the grim financial climate.

State economists will meet Friday to update general revenue estimates for the current and next several budget years. Lawmakers will use those estimates to craft the state’s spending plan for the next budget year beginning July 1.

Senate Ways and Means Chairman JD Alexander, R-Lake Wales, has said he expects the 2009-10 estimate to be down by about $2 billion.

“I believe that it will,” Crist acknowledged. “I don’t have a crystal ball, I can’t foresee what the estimates are going to be tomorrow. Again I would caution they are only estimates.”

Crist then cited the $13 billion state officials are expecting from the federal stimulus package during the current and next two budget years. He also again touted his recommendation that the Legislature approve a compact with the Seminole Indians that would pay the state hundreds of millions in exchange for allowing blackjack and other Las Vegas-style games at tribal casinos.

“So I think we should be in pretty darn good shape,” Crist said.

Legislative leaders, though, are skeptical and planning for more budget cuts. State spending already has been slashed by about $7 billion over the past two years. That’s knocked the current budget down to $65.5 billion.

Crist has proposed spending about $1 billion more in the next budget year including stimulus money and the Seminole compact.

The economists revise the revenue estimate three times a year. For the past couple years they have reduced the forecast every time they’ve met because the state’s economic swoon has steadily gotten worse.

Another decline is expected because tax and other revenue collections have fallen more than $200 million short for the current year since the last update in November.

The revenue shortfalls are the result of Florida’s spectacular housing market bust and the national recession, economists say.