TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/AP) — The economy is expected to grow steadily over the next three years in Florida.
After a decade that saw the state’s economy soar — and then crash during the Great Recession — economists are expecting a continued gradual recovery.
“We finally entered a period of stability where everything is behaving predictably,” said Amy Baker, coordinator of the state’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research.
Baker and other state economists concluded that the state’s main tax collections would grow by 3.4 percent over the coming year and then another 4.4 percent by the middle of 2015 bringing the total to $27.3 billion.
This positive news means that Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Legislature can expect to have a budget surplus of more than $2 billion to work with next year. That money could be used for increasing spending in areas like education or it could be used for tax cuts.
The predictions of steady economic growth also gives Scott another thing to brag about as he moves closer to the 2014 elections and his bid for a second term.
Scott contended Friday that the revenue forecast — as well as other economic trends showing an increase in the number of people moving to the state — “shows that our policies to create opportunities for Florida’s families to succeed are working.”
Rep. Seth McKeel, R-Lakeland and the House budget chief, predicted the extra money will give lawmakers the ability to “provide a significant tax break for Florida businesses.”
Scott himself pushed for a big cut in the state’s corporate income tax when he ran for office, but so far he has only been able to pass relatively small cuts in the tax.
Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart and the Senate budget chief, said the new forecast means that lawmakers can “avoid drastic cuts in the coming budget year.” But he warned about “adding costs that will quickly consume any modest increase in revenues.”
“As we move forward, we will remain cautious and continue to operate under the policy that funding for new initiatives must coincide with a careful examination of existing funding,” Negron said in a statement.
Baker said that Florida has seen higher periods of growth during past economic recoveries. But “clearly it is on a steady, upward path,” she said.
These forecasts, however, noted that the projections are being affected by automatic federal budget cuts known as the sequester that took effect this year.
Economists said they have reduced their overall projections by a quarter of a percent to account for less spending because of the budget cuts, which are impacting federal operations such as the military as well as the Florida National Guard.
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