Editorial: Groundhog Day
Published: Friday, September 18, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, September 17, 2009 at 1:16 a.m.
Tallahassee’s version of Groundhog Day is when state revenue forecasters stick their heads out of their offices and survey the fiscal landscape.
The bad news. The forecasters saw a shadow.
After three years of Draconian budget cuts, there may be more of the same ahead. Amy Baker, director of the Office of Economic and Demographic Research, said the state current projections indicate the state will come up $923 million short of just paying for "the things we have to do" in education, criminal justice and other basic state services in the next fiscal year.
Moreover, reports Florida Capital News service, "Depending on how they juggle recurring and one-time revenues, ‘sweep’ money from trust funds, slash agency budgets and possibly find new tax sources, the shortfall could more than double the following fiscal year and drop back to about $1.2 billion the year after that."
It gets worse.
Those pessimistic projections are based on the assumption that no major hurricanes will hit Florida in the foreseeable future.
An addendum to the fiscal forecast shows that the state’s Hurricane Catastrophe Fund is about $7 billion short of meeting its maximum legal obligation. And the state-run Citizens Property Insurance Corp. is also $7 billion short of what it may be obliged to pay out if "the big one" hits.
One or more major storms "may expose the state to much greater potential financial liability for hurricane-related costs," according to a fiscal outlook report.
Lawmakers have shown that they are not inclined to raise taxes to responsibly fund state government’s obligations. But this latest Groundhog Day forecast should prompt the Legislature to at least take additional steps to minimize government’s exposure to hurricane-related damages.
Lawmakers can’t say they haven’t been warned.