BY Jim Turner, The News Service of Florida
TALLAHASSEE — As federal stimulus checks gave Floridians more money to spend, the state’s April revenue collections topped an economists’ forecast by nearly 24 percent.
The Legislature’s Office of Economic & Demographic Research on Friday reported April general-revenue collections came in $797.2 million above a projection for the month. That gave Florida its ninth consecutive month exceeding revenue expectations as the state recovers from the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A report issued by the office noted the April revenue total is “by far, the greatest overage since the pandemic began in the 2020 calendar year.”
When he signed a record $100 billion state budget Wednesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis said anticipated revenue collections through June — the final month of the current fiscal year — should push budget reserves from $9.5 billion to above $10 billion.
“If you go back to last April (2020), the shortfalls that everyone was predicting, look, we were obviously concerned about it,” DeSantis said while appearing at a New Smyrna Beach restaurant. “But as we got into the summer, you know, we were open. I mean, I remember everyone, you know, a lot of people were trying to tell me to close restaurants like this last summer. We didn’t do it. We kept business open. We got kids in school. We did all those things. And the result was our economy really started to rebound.”
In its new report, the Office of Economic & Demographic Research credited the tax collections to activity that mostly occurred in March, which the report said “continued to benefit from the most recent round of stimulus checks to households, redirected spending from the hard-hit service sector and some consumers’ ability to draw down atypically large savings that built up during the pandemic.”
The state had been forecast to collect a net general-revenue amount of about $3.395 billion in April but brought in $4.192 billion, the report shows.
The April figures — the forecast was set by the state’s Revenue Estimating Conference on April 5 — came after revenue topped forecasts for March by $299.6 million, February by $298.5 million, January by $246.7 million and December by $336.7 million.
Sales taxes make up the largest portion of state general revenue, which is used to fund programs such as schools, health care and prisons.
For April, the state collected $2.799.3 billion in sales taxes, $447.6 million over the estimate. Figures topped expectations in six categories watched by economists, including tourism, which has lagged throughout the pandemic.
Taxes collected from tourism in April exceeded the forecast by 12.1 percent. Meanwhile, tax collections on consumer non-durable items were up 16.8 percent from the forecast, while collections on automobiles were up 33.8 percent.
Collections were also above forecast in most other types of taxes that go into general revenue. Examples were corporate income taxes (48.9 percent); documentary stamp taxes (44.1 percent); intangible taxes (51.4 percent) and beverage taxes (90 percent), according to the report.