By The Associated Press.
Florida will get a one-time boost in tax money as residents across the state slowly rebuild from the devastation of Hurricane Irma.
Irma ripped across the state in September and caused more than $21 billion in insured and uninsured damage. The killer storm that caused massive power outages has been blamed for at least 84 deaths.
Florida’s economy has been improving over the past few years, but state economists on Friday concluded that Florida will see a spike in sales tax collections as the recovery takes place.
Economists concluded that the state’s main budget account will grow 5.1 percent during the fiscal year that ends in June. They are predicting growth of 4.4 percent in the 2018-19 fiscal year.
The new forecasts mean legislators have nearly $500 million extra to spend in the coming year, which could be used for one-time expenses or on a range of tax cuts like the state’s popular back-to-school sales tax holiday.
“It’s good news, but it doesn’t really alter the long-term shape of what we are facing down the road,” says Amy Baker, the coordinator for the Office of Economic and Demographic Research.
The Florida House and Senate earlier this week approved dueling $87 billion budgets that are close in the bottom line but differ significantly on how much money should be spent in key areas such as public schools, universities and environmental programs. They could use the one-time infusion of extra cash during upcoming budget negotiations.
But Senate President Joe Negron said he did not expect the extra money to lead to “significant changes” in the budget.
“While today’s news is positive, past experience shows us that revenue estimates can fluctuate and circumstances change,” Negron said in a statement. “It is always best to remain cautious and prudent.”