Senate President Bill Galvano remains bullish about Florida’s economy.
The Bradenton Republican told state legislators on Thursday that despite the dramatic reduction in sales revenue in the state over the past month, he remains confident in the Sunshine State’s ability to recover financially.
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“While the situation is very serious, I remain confident in Florida’s ability to recover, not because I am overly-optimistic, but because I have witnessed the resilience of Floridians and am confident in the fiscal decisions we have made, and will make, as a state,” Galvano wrote in a memo. “We must remain committed to making fact-based decisions as we enter this period of transition. We must focus on strategies to help our fellow Floridians recover, while incorporating new strategies to protect the most vulnerable.”
In a memo distributed two weeks ago, Galvano told legislators that with state reserves and $12 million coming to the state and local governments in Florida from the $2.2 trillion stimulus bill, Florida could handle the damage to state revenues from the economy essentially being shut down.
Moody’s Analytics took a different perspective this week, writing that the combination of tax revenue losses and an increase in Medicaid spending would take a financial toll on the state.
Former Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink says the state’s $93 budget passed by the Legislature last month is now “out the window,” and says she’s concerned about what is happening to the current budget which runs through the end of June. She thinks the governor and Cabinet need to take immediate actions, such as placing a hiring freeze in state government and “slow down” any discretionary expenditures.
Jimmy Patronis, the state’s current CFO, called on Gov. Ron DeSantis and state legislative leaders last month to get the state’s budget team – known as the Revenue Estimating Conference- to convene to talk about the financial ramifications from the virus.
Amy Baker, the state’s chief economist, said last week that “credible estimates” may not be possible until May at the earliest.
“Come on now. That is unacceptable,” says Sink. “Any financial officer at any company…would have immediately gone back in and redone some projections. And maybe you don’t know what the exact numbers are, but you know it’s going to be down by some percentage, and you ought to be going back there and doing some ‘what-if’s and running some scenarios.”
While Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried has made headlines recently in calling for Gov. DeSantis to convene his first Cabinet meeting since the crisis erupted over the past six weeks, St. Petersburg Democratic State Rep. Ben Diamond also believes the Cabinet needs to meet now.
They haven’t done so since early February.
“The governor and our CFO need to be talking about this proactively and publicly and working collaboratively with the other agency heads to conserve cash and to slow spending,” he told Spectrum Bay News 9 from his state legislative office on Thursday.
Diamond worked with Sink in the CFO’s office as Florida dealt with the Great Recession from 2007-2010. He says as bad as this was, the current crisis is probably going to be worse economically.
“This is a once in a generation emergency,” he says. “We just want to know the honest status of how are our state leaders preparing to address these issues, and how are they addressing them when it comes to the financial piece that impacts Floridians.”