State Budget: Shortfalls Expected to Grow; Special Legislative Session Possible
Shortfalls in Florida’s $66 billion state budget could soon exceed $2 billion, according to incoming Florida House Speaker Ray Sansom (R-Destin). In a November 5, 2008 press conference, Rep. Sansom stated that he expected the shortfall, already pegged at $1.4 billion, to grow by another $700 million.
State officials already have transferred $672 million from reserve funds, ordered state agencies to hold back four percent of their appropriated funds, and borrowed $300 million from state trust funds to avoid a cash shortfall in the state General Revenue Fund. The Florida Department of Financial Services has requested additional temporary borrowing authority to address anticipated additional shortfalls.
The question of whether the Legislature should meet in a special session to address the budget crisis is under debate. Rep. Sansom stated that he does not see the need for a special session, because the governor and the Legislative Budget Commission have the authority to make the necessary adjustments. However, in an appearance before a business group on November 7, 2008, state Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink stated, “I do not see any way we can afford to wait until March to deal with a potential $1-billion-plus shortfall in this budget year. That’s just an impossible situation.”
Politics: Final Election Results
The Elections Canvassing Commission met on November 8, 2008 to confirm the final results of the November 4, 2008 elections. The commission confirmed that:
One state legislative race remains unsettled. In House District 11, Rep. Debbie Boyd (D-High Springs) leads Elizabeth Porter (R-Lake City) by 158 votes, or 0.2 percent. Florida law requires a machine recount when a candidate’s lead is 0.5 percent or less. A hand recount will follow the machine recount if the machine recount gives the leading candidate a margin of 0.25 percent or less.
Economy: Crisis May Impact Florida Tourism
The Florida tourism industry may already be feeling the effects of the national economic crisis. Smith Travel Research has reported that revenue collected per hotel room has fallen 2.4 percent in Broward County and 6.6 percent in Monroe County this year. Revenue is up 2.6 percent in Miami-Dade County, but this increase is the smallest increase in Miami-Dade in at least five years. Miami-Dade had a record number of international visitors this year, offsetting the county’s first decline in U.S. visitors since the events of September 11, 2001.
Walt Disney Co. expects weaker results from its theme parks in 2009. In a conference call on November 6, 2008, Disney President and Chief Executive Officer Robert A. Iger stated that bookings for the 2008 holiday season were down one percent at Walt Disney World, but that the resort could see a sharp decline in attendance in 2009.
The industry appears to be responding to the anticipated slowdown. Disney announced plans to offer discounted tickets to its theme parks in the first half of 2009. In an effort to promote tourism in the Florida Keys, the Monroe County Tourism Development Council announced a $500,000 emergency advertising campaign promoting the area as an affordable destination.
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