Florida budget gurus are predicting an extra $3.2 billion in revenues over the next two years and may be surprised to find out why. They say it's due in large part to all the recent hurricanes and increased tax collections from all the rebuilding work.
A lot of people have a lot of ideas on how to spend it. Citizens Property Insurance Corporation is the state-run insurer covering the bulk of Florida’s coastal properties. It’s projecting nearly a $1 billion deficit. That means every policy holder in the state will be socked with an 11 percent assessment to cover the shortfall, unless lawmakers opt to dip into the sudden windfall of extra revenues.
Insurance agent Bill Gunter says it’s an easy choice.
"To me it’s a no-brainer that a part of the extra revenue which is being taken in now through additional construction to pay for damages and reconstruction after the hurricanes and retail sales should be applied against that deficit,” Gunter says.
The Legislature killed a similar proposal last year, but with $3 billion extra to spend over the next two years, several lawmakers are now pushing to have at least some of the surplus go to offset insurance costs.
Jeb Bush and Republican leaders in the Legislature also want to use the extra cash for tax cuts, including the elimination of the intangibles tax on stocks and bonds that impacts wealthy investors.
Democrats say not so fast. State Rep. Curtis Richardson says a big chunk of the extra cash should go to education.
"We have an opportunity to fully fund the class size amendment, to address the issues of teacher salaries and spending per student,” says Richardson.
One thing you can bank on, that extra $3 billion will ignite some heated budget battles this spring.
If lawmakers don’t use the extra revenues to cover the Citizens Insurance shortfall, a homeowner with a $1,000 premium would face an additional assessment of $110 next year.