FloridaTrend.com, the Website for Florida Business

What the Government Shutdown & Debt Ceiling Crisis Mean to Florida

A budget impasse between the Democrats and Republicans in Washington has shut down the federal government since October 1, and has brought the nation to the brink of exceeding the statutory debt ceiling if the limit is not raised by October 17.

The Everglades
Everglades National Park usually hosts around 2,700 visitors per day in October, but is currently closed. [Photo: SFWMD]

The Shutdown

Far from being simply a Washington problem, there are tangible impacts of the shutdown on Florida’s economy. Given Florida’s dependence on the sales and use tax (more than 70 percent of Florida’s general revenue), anything that decreases consumption affects Florida’s budget. The shutdown will likely cost Florida millions of dollars in tax receipts, as thousands of federal employees in Florida have been furloughed for almost two weeks. (See list below)

Several key Florida industries have already been hurt, including tourism, retail, and those sectors of the economy that require significant capital investment.

Selected Florida areas - Number of Federal Employees (2012)
Total Federal Employment in Florida - 132,747
Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach MSA - 33,716
Tampa-St. Petersburg - Clearwater MSA - 22,043
Jacksonville MSA - 17,217
Orlando - Kissimmee - Sanford MSA - 12,248
Fort Walton Beach - Crestview - Destin MSA - 8,085
Cape Coral-Fort Myers MSA - 2,396
Tallahassee MSA - 1,903
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Particularly impacted when the federal government is shut down, Florida tourism has been strongly affected by the closing of national parks and museums, such as the Everglades National Park. In addition, small businesses that depend on visitors to the state’s parks have seen drops in income during this period, and some may go out of business because of it.

This Florida TaxWatch report is also available in PDF format:
"What the Government Shutdown & Debt Ceiling Crisis Mean to Florida"

The shutdown also creates uncertainty for businesses and individuals, both of whom spend and invest less during periods of higher uncertainty. Adding to this uncertainty is the fact that there was no jobs report released on October 4th because of the shutdown, the release of which usually triggers market movement.

In addition to businesses delaying investments in productive capital and hiring workers, the shutdown of the IRS will likely delay some home purchases by individuals. This will hurt not only the buyers and sellers, but also mortgage lenders and banks, and will reduce the collection of Florida’s documentary stamp tax.

The Debt Ceiling

While the shutdown has a substantial negative impact on Florida and other states’ economies, another significant decision is still on the immediate horizon: raising the national debt ceiling by October 17.

At its most basic level, failure to raise the debt ceiling will not allow the U.S. to meet its current financial obligations. These obligations include Social Security, disability payments, and services provided to the population such as food stamps and Medicare, and will prevent the federal government from making payments due on existing debt to domestic investors and foreign countries.

Tangible effects of the debt ceiling crisis, according to a recent report by the U.S. Treasury, include slow job growth, decreased consumer and business confidence, very volatile financial markets, and bond rating downgrades. We could expect higher interest rates on future borrowing, costing U.S. taxpayers substantial amounts of money through higher interest payments. These impacts will translate into less investment in productive capital, something necessary for higher levels of economic growth.

Whatever the political outcome of the debt ceiling crisis, financial markets are already reacting. One way to gauge the recations of the financial markets is to look at the Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE)’s Volatility Index, the VIX. The VIX shows the market’s expectation of volatility in the S&P 500 over the next 30 days. It’s often referred to as the “Investor Fear Gauge,” and has increased by nearly 48 percent since September 20th (see chart below).

Another measurement is the yields on one-month Treasury bills. A spike in yields on this short-term bill would be an indicator that investors are avoiding the market and only willing to purchase these bonds at significant discounts. These bonds that were, as of September 20, on the secondary market at .01 “bank discount” were trading at .15 on October 7 – a substantial discount compared to recent values.

Chart: CBOE volatility index

Importance of Capital Investment to Economy

Investment fuels economic growth. However, current uncertainty is holding back investment. The state of Florida, like most other states, has experienced sluggish growth since the end of the Great Recession. The uncertainty of the current situation is likely to further hinder this growth, and could potentially return the U.S. to a recession if necessary political action is not taken in a timely manner.

Florida’s budget and state debt
Like the vast majority of U.S. states, Florida has a constitutionally-required balanced budget, and passing this balanced budget is the sole requirement of the Florida Legislature every year. Something that is not required, but has impacted Florida in a positive manner, is the fact that Florida has paid off $3.6 billion in debt during the last three fiscal years.

Fiscal Year
Debt Paid off
2011 $500 million
2012 $1.5 million
2013 $1.6 million
Source: State of Florida 2012 Debt Affordability Report

This commitment to reducing its debt, as well as the improving budget situation, has improved Florida’s credit rating with bond rating agencies.





The general downside of the shutdown and debt ceiling crisis is that it may cause a drop in revenue collections, a risky situation for Florida’s upcoming budget projections.

The most recent Revenue Estimating Conference has projected an $845.7 million surplus for FY2014-15 (some from recurring and some from non-recurring sources), even when $1 billion in reserves are included.

The most recent Revenue Estimating Conference has projected an $845.7 million surplus for FY2014-15 (some from recurring and some from non-recurring sources), even when $1 billion in reserves are included. The loss of revenue from an extended shutdown could reduce these estimates.

This Florida TaxWatch report is also available in PDF format:
"What the Government Shutdown & Debt Ceiling Crisis Mean to Florida"

Although much of the public focus has been on the infighting and political theater in Washington, the federal shutdown and debt ceiling crisis have negatively affected Florida’s economy, and the longer the shutdown is in effect, the more damage will be done here at home. The global impact of the United States defaulting on its debt would be immense, and would certainly hurt the Sunshine State. No matter what the solution politically, these issues are not limited to Washington, and the impact to Florida and the other states must be a consideration moving forward.

Biscayne National Park
Snorkeling in Biscayne National Park, also closed due to the shutdown


Florida Tax Watch

Chairman of the Board, Gunster


President, thezumwaltcompany
Florida TaxWatch Chairman & Immediate Past Chair, CCF Advisory Board

This Florida TaxWatch report is also available in PDF format:
"What the Government Shutdown & Debt Ceiling Crisis Mean to Florida"

President, AT&T Florida
Immediate Past Chairman, Florida TaxWatch

Market Executive, Bank of America Merrill Lynch

Chairman, GrayRobinson Law Firm

VP for Public Affairs, Publix Super Markets, Inc.

Executive VP & General Counsel, AutoNation, Inc.

Sr. Policy Advisor, Holland & Knight

Trustee, BlueField Ranch Mitigation Bank Trust

Vice President, The Walt Disney Company

Senior VP, AvMed Health Plans

President, SouthEast Region, Verizon

Former Chairman, Florida TaxWatch

VP for State Governmental Affairs, Florida Power & Light

Economic Commentary written by
Jerry D. Parrish, Ph.D., Chief Economist, and Executive Director of the Center for Competitive Florida, with assistance from Jennifer Linares, MS, Research Analyst.

Robert Weissert, Chief Research Officer
Chris Barry, Director of Publications

John Zumwalt, III, Chair, Florida TaxWatch
Sen. George LeMieux Chair, Center for Competitive Florida
Dominic M. Calabro, President, Publisher, and Editor

Florida TaxWatch Research Institute, Inc.
Copyright © Florida TaxWatch, October 2013