GROWTH IN GENERAL REVENUES State economists have updated their general revenue figures in preparation for the 2015 Legislative Session. The figures, last reported in August, estimate an additional $70 million for the coffers. This increase will push the projected surplus to over $400 million.
STATE PENSION REFORM House Speaker Steve Crisafulli announced his support to continue the efforts of his predecessor to move new State employee hires to investment type pension programs rather than the traditional pension fund. The Senate has not considered this issue during the last two years. However, pension reform will likely be considered this year with the filing of SB 172 by Senators Rob Bradley (R-Fleming Island) and Jeremy Ring (D-Margate). The bill appears similar to a proposal that died last year.
MINIMUM WAGE INCREASE Florida’s minimum wage is scheduled to increase effective January 1st. The new hourly minimum will be $8.05 and represents a $0.12 increase from the current year. This annual change in the wage stems from the 2004 constitutional amendment approved by voters, which indexed annual increases to inflation rates.
FLORIDA GAMING CONFERENCE Casino operators, business interests and legislators gathered in Miami on November 11th to discuss the future of gaming in the State. Gaming will again be an issue during the 2015 Session and the Governor will continue to negotiate the terms and conditions of the expiring Seminole Tribe Gaming Compact.
ALL ABOARD FLORIDA All Aboard Florida (AAF), the high speed rail project connecting Orlando with Miami, has submitted a financing application to the Florida Development Finance Corporation seeking approval for the issuance of private activity bonds to help fund the upgrade to existing rails. The application indicates that local governments have expressed no opposition to the project.
AAF is also wrapping up its Draft Environmental Impact Statement, which is conducted by the Federal Railroad Administration. Over 8,000 comments have been received from the public.
SUNRAIL The Florida Department of Transportation has announced that Phase 2 of SunRail, Central Florida’s commuter rail system, is scheduled to begin construction by the end of next summer. The federal government is scheduled to approve funding in early 2015.