Harper: Proposed Florida Budget Gets Larger As State Grows, Job Numbers Improve

Mar 6, 2014

In this week’s Economic Report, Dr. Rick Harper discusses Florida Governor Rick Scott’s proposed 2014-2015 budget, as this year’s Legislative Session gets underway. Gov. Scott is proposing a spending plan of $74.2 billion.

Credit University of West Florida

Firstly, Harper says that figure is an indication that Florida is a big state, soon to overtake New York as the third most populous state in the nation. “It’s a big number. But, when you look at it on a per capita basis, it’s almost half the spending per resident in New York,” says Harper. He adds that according to the December 2013 Florida Department of Management Services report, Florida is at the very bottom compared to all other state in the U.S. in spending per resident.

Compared to recent state budgets, Harper says the proposed amount of $74.2 billion reflects the fact spending in the state is not back pre-recession levels.

The Legislature will approve a final budget and send it back to the governor, who has the power of the line-item veto.

Additionally, the proposed state budget includes more than $500 million in tax cuts, primarily in the form of a roll back in vehicle registration fees. Such a measure has the support of the leadership in the Florida House and Senate, including Senate President Don Gaetz of Niceville.

Gov. Scott’s proposed budget would cut the state workforce by just 57 jobs, which is the fewest amount in his first term.

Shifting to the national picture in terms of jobs lost in February, the outplacement consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas reports about 42,000 announced job cuts for the month. That’s down 7.3% from January and 24% less than a year ago. Harper says that’s good news, but he notes that the job market in the country continues to face challenges. “Businesses may be laying-off fewer people than before, but we’re not yet seeing the kind of hiring that we need to see to get the economy back on a firm footing, so that people can take advantage of economy opportunity such as buying houses and cars,” he says.

Finally, the U.S. Department of Labor reports the number of people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits dropped 26,000 to a seasonally adjusted 323,000, the lowest level in three months.

Meantime, in advance of the government’s Friday jobs report, payroll processing firm ADP is out with an estimate of 139,000 private sector jobs created in February 2014. Harper says it’s a weak report for the third month in a row, “the job market clearly has a long way to go until it’s in full recovery.”

Dr. Rick Harper is Director of the University of West Florida Office of Economic Development and Engagement. He’s currently serving as Senior Economic Policy Advisor to the Florida Senate.  http://www.uwf.edu/oede/, rharper@uwf.edu