Florida's Budget Hole

By: Troy Kinsey Email
By: Troy Kinsey Email

Florida's number crunchers have some very bad news. In a span of only a few months, the states budget deficit has grown by nearly 1.5 billion dollars. We're at 2.2 billion now.

Amy Baker, state economist says, "We essentially had three economic shocks since we last met. The first one was a complete freeze in the credit market, the second one was the spread of the national recession to the global recession, and then the third one is an additional loss of wealth for people."

Put simply, people don't have the money they used to so they are not spending as much. Florida gets three quarters of it's money from sales tax.

A special legislative session may be inevitable. It could happen as early as next month and the choices won't be easy.

Florida's chief financial officer Alex Sink says if they wait until next spring to make financial decisions, it may be to late. She says it could threaten critical programs for everything from education to health care.

"We don't get into a situation where we would have to shut down state government at the end of the day. I'm just convinced that the Legislature won't let something like that happen, but that would be the doomsday, Armageddon scenario if we don't get ahead of this problem," said Alex.

There is talk of raising the cigarette tax, an option Governor Crist says takes a backseat to his top priority.

"See what reserves we have in order to be able to help us handle this situation. Taxes aren't something that I'm very warm and fuzzy about; I think you know that," said Crist.

With a more thank 2 billion dollar strong debt, the " t " word may be tough to avoid.

For weeks Governor Crist has stopped short of supporting a special session, saying he was waiting on Friday's numbers. Now that they are out, many political veterans say he can't afford not to call lawmakers back to work as soon as possible.

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