Florida faces another budget shortfall as tax revenues drop

TALLAHASSEE -- Florida's foundering economy will soon plunge the state budget back into the red, a leading legislator said Monday in warning of more difficult times ahead.

Sen. J.D. Alexander, a Winter Haven Republican and the lead Senate budget writer, delivered the news at the start of a meeting of his budget committee.

As a result, the Legislature will likely have to cut the current year's budget again and make cuts and tax hikes next year totaling more than $5 billion, or $2 billion more than previously anticipated.

''Even with federal stimulus funds, there is little doubt that further budget reductions will be necessary,'' Alexander said of this year's budget.

With sales tax collections for December and January falling $224 million below estimates, Alexander said, the trend is likely to continue for the rest of this fiscal year. He told senators that the new shortfall in the current year budget could be as high as $700 million, but a precise figure won't be known until March 13, the date of the next Revenue Estimating Conference.

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