In Tallahassee and beyond, a behind-the-scenes debate about Florida’s proposed budget is simmering.  The #1 topic heating up phone lines, emails and texts are options to address an expected downturn in general revenue.

November Special Session Possible

Currently, the prevailing sentiment is to wait until November for a special session of the Legislature. By then, its proponents suggest, more will be known about the duration of the stay-at-home order, and, ultimately, its impact on collections. The elections also will have taken place, resulting in less pressure to appeal ideologically to anyone’s perceived base and, therefore, more reliance on facts.

This timing is being tested, however, with the release this week of new data by Moody Analytics. As covered by several news organizations, Moody predicts Florida stands to lose at least $8 billion in revenue for the upcoming year.    

Federal Supports May Lessen Impact

But WAIT. It appears that the April 15 Moody report doesn’t factor in the infusion of $8.2 billion in federal stimulus dollars expected under the CARE Act. Even if a portion of those funds goes to local government, the stimulus is roughly equivalent to the anticipated general revenue decline. Other federal supports, such as FEMA, do not immediately appear to be included in the bottom line either.

Florida could also decide to lessen the damaging impact by pursuing revenue sources which it has been unwilling or unable to navigate up to this point: (1) Participation in the Interstate Compact, whereby Florida would collect sales taxes on internet purchases as do the majority of other states, and (2) reaching a win-win gambling agreement with the Seminole Indian Tribe. Combined, just these two revenue streams could lift Florida up in the $1.2 billion range.

Health and Social Services Already Plagued by Underfunding

In the proposed budget going to the Governor are improvements in child welfare accountability, juvenile prevention programs, child sex trafficking, before and after school programs and family safety, among others. Also tucked into member projects are many outstanding programs and services for children that aren’t as yet formalized into recurring executive or cabinet level line items. There exists a number of reasons why that remains a work in progress. 

What makes child advocates most anxious is what we believe may be coming, based on decades of past performance, and, admittedly, by actions of prior state leaders. The proof, though, is in the metrics.  Florida already ranks in the bottom 75% among all states for overall child well-being. Even worse, we rank in the bottom 10 states for child health and also economic well-being. It’s why advocates for children and families don’t sleep well, worrying about vetoes or a special session aimed at cutting budgets.   

Cuts to Children Never Heal

Caution please. Not panic. Whether it involves veto decisions or when to call a special session, our children are depending on our Governor and everyone else to be careful and sure-footed.

It reminds us of a now famous quote from long-time friend Jack Levine: “Cuts to children never heal”.  It’s important for our leaders to keep that in mind today, tomorrow and into the future.

 

 

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This Capitol Report is brought to you by Amanda Ostrander, Karen Bonsignori, Roy Miller and Michael Sonntag.