Steady growth could increase Fla. budget surplus

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Florida legislators, already set to cut as much as $500 million from existing taxes and fees, could get a bit more good news on Wednesday.

State economists are drawing up new estimates on how much money the state is expected to collect in taxes. Preliminary forecasts show a steady rate of growth as the economy becomes more stable.

Those initial forecasts show that economists are predicting state tax collections to grow between 4 percent and 6 percent between this year and 2017. Economists were expected to release a final number later in the day.

"There's a lot of stability in what we are doing right now," said Amy Baker, the head of the state's Office of Economic and Demographic Research.

If the forecasts hold, the Republican-controlled Legislature will have an even larger budget surplus heading into the 2014 election year. Legislators will use the forecast adopted this week to draw up a new state budget that will cover state spending from July 2014 to June 2015.

GOP leaders had already said they wanted to use the more than $1 billion budget surplus to pay for tax and fee cuts, including rolling back auto registration fees. That surplus could grow by another $100 million based on the latest forecast.

The state's main tax is the 6-percent sales tax. Collections of the tax dropped at the height of the Great Recession but have been recovering since then.

Copyright 2014 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.