Florida revenue picture a mixed bag

By Mike Vasilinda, Reporter, Capitol News Service

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - What has been a succession of months of strong tax collections for Florida came to a halt in October.

The numbers would have been even lower than estimates except for the fact economists took the federal government shutdown into consideration.

The taxes from Florida real estate transactions dropped by just more than 5 percent last month. State corporate tax collections were off 12 percent in October.

Sales tax collections in October remained virtually flat. Economists say they are still crunching the final numbers.

"Well, we've been seeing some strong increases coming into October," economist Amy Baker said. "October, overall all, kind of came in at the forecast or just a hair below, so maybe a little bit of slowing."

Former Congressman and now Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Adam Putnam has long been critical of Washington D.C.'s dysfunction. The numbers back him up.

"I do think that you're seeing an impact on consumer confidence, hiring decisions, business decisions," he said.

The estimates for tax collections could have been even worse had economists not factored in the looming federal shutdown when they issued the estimates in August.

Revenue estimators say they'll continue to have a cautious outlook until Congress fixes the budget problem once and for all.

"We have no idea what they are going to do in January and February, so we're still being cautious," Baker said.

If there is one bright spot, overall tax collections for Florida are still $73 million above original estimates, signaling an economy improving faster than even state economists predicted.

The estimate developed in March will be either optimistic or cautious and will determine how much state lawmakers have to spend next year on schools and other state needs.

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