by Bethany Blankley
The state of Florida is reporting a $21.8 billion surplus in 2022, the highest in state history. The state also decreased its debt by $1.3 billion this year, according to a newly published State Debt Report from the State of Florida Division of Bond Finance.
According to the report, Florida decreased its debt by $1.3 billion, increased its revenues by 17% ($8.5 billion), and maintained its AAA bond rating primarily because of its strong growing economy.
Gov. Ron DeSantis maintains that Florida’s economy has flourished because of its commitment to lower taxes and regulations and ensuring that businesses remained open when other states enacted strict lockdown policies. As states like California increased taxes, especially on businesses, DeSantis earlier this year signed the largest tax relief bill in Florida history with more than $1.2 billion in savings.
In 2022, Florida ranked first for attracting and maintaining a skilled workforce, ranked the second-best state for business by Chief Executive Magazine, and ranked fourth in the Tax Foundation’s Business Tax Climate Index. Florida also led the U.S. for having the best overall fiscal policy and as the most economically free state, based on 2021 data, according to a CATO Institute report.
Prior to being elected to his second term by one of the highest margins in state history, DeSantis said Florida’s new residents left “jurisdictions governed by failed leftist ideology and corrupt politicians. You see the migration – and since COVID, we’ve led the nation in net in migration, we’ve had more adjusted gross income move into the state of Florida than has ever moved in to any state in the history of our country over a similar time period. And this is just people voting with their feet.
“We’ve been able to see what works in Florida because we have been a place where people go for refuge to live in a free state [after they’ve been] ground down by a lot of these woke [governors] running so many parts of our country.”
Florida CFO Jimmy Patronis said the 2022 State Debt Report “reflects that Florida’s economy is in excellent shape and continues to flourish. Thanks to the leadership of Governor DeSantis and the state Legislature, we have decreased our state debt by $1.3 billion dollars while increasing our reserves to an unprecedented $19.7 billion.”
He also noted that Florida pension funding remained strong and Florida’s AAA bond rating is based on bonds that don’t comply with ESG.
“While Washington flounders with inflation and spending policies pushing us further towards a recession, Florida is on the right track and is in the best fiscal health it has ever been,” he said.
According to the report, total state direct debt outstanding as of June 30, 2022, was $17.1 billion – a $1.3 billion decrease from the prior fiscal year. It also notes that there “has been a significant decrease in projected debt issuance over the past decade reflecting less reliance on debt to finance infrastructure.” In fiscal 2010, projected debt issuance was $7.2 billion compared to current projected debt issuance of only $2.2 billion.
The report also notes that annual debt service payments have remained relatively stable in the $2 billion to $2.2 billion range through fiscal 2022 but are projected to decrease significantly in fiscal 2023 to $1.8 billion and decline annually thereafter.
Florida’s growing economy has enabled the state to pay down its debt, the report notes. Fiscal 2022 revenues available to pay debt service totaled over $56 billion, the report states, an increase of $8.5 billion, or 17.9%, over fiscal 2021. This followed robust growth in fiscal 2021 with revenues available for debt service totaling $6.3 billion, or 15% more than fiscal 2020, it states.
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