Florida’s support for public services lowest since the recession and trending downward

Support for public services has declined consistently since 2008, despite state revenues having increased since the end of the recession. This puts a drag on the state’s economy, limiting both its growth and its ability to create good paying jobs and increase household incomes. Lawmakers should restore investment in public services to meet growing state needs and boost the state’s economy.    


Dhanraj Singh

January 2017

Declining support for public services in Florida results in both inadequate delivery and/or poor-quality service provision to meet state needs, limiting the state’s economic growth. Support for public services provides important results including the production of a well-trained labor force through public education, quality and affordable healthcare, adequate human services, affordable housing, safe communities, and efficient transportation. These aims are not just important for meeting the needs of Floridians, they are good investments for growing the state’s economy.

Using data compiled by the Tax Policy Center that include state and local government spending[i], the graph below compares support for public services in Florida and the United States from 2008 to 2013. The broken lines show a simple trend in spending over the period.

FPI Jan27 Graphic

Based on the graph:

  • Florida’s support for public services declined consistently since 2008. In 2013, the state spent $6,881 per person, compared to $7,549 in 2008, i.e. a reduction of almost 10 percent.
  • The gap between Florida’s support for public services and the national average is widening. In 2008, Florida spent less than $400 per person compared to the national average.[ii] In 2013, it spent almost $1,500 less per person compared to the national average.

From 2008 to 2013, state government revenues, measured on a per person basis, increased by 21%. However, state expenditures, measured on a per person basis, decreased by 9%.  Simultaneously, local government revenues and expenditures, measured on a per person basis, declined by approximately 18%.[iii]

While Florida’s growing population contributed to the downward trend in per person spending, much of the decline in support for public services at the state level is a direct result of Florida’s legislative and executive spending decisions. Budget cuts to key programs during the recession have not been restored, despite the fact that the recession ended, revenues have recovered and the state needs to support services to a larger population.

If support for public services were the same amount per person in 2013 as it was in 2008, an additional $13.1 billion[iv] would have been invested in the economy, improving the quality and adequacy of public services and boosting the state’s economic growth.

During the 2008 – 2013 period, Florida’s Governor vetoed spending items approved by the legislature totaling $1.75 billion or almost $300 million annually.[v] While these funds would not significantly change the downward trend in support for public services, had they been included in public spending, Florida would not have missed an opportunity to capitalize on the economic impact of these investments on the state’s economic growth and job creation.

Conclusion and Recommendation

If state support for public services continues on its current downward path, Floridians will not be able to access critical services that support health and productivity, important facets of growing the state’s economy. Declining support for public services limits the state’s ability to grow and create jobs, and increase household incomes.

Lawmakers should restore funding for public services to meet growing state needs and boost the state economy. Restoring support for critical public services is important for Florida to be competitive in attracting private investment, and to become a national leader in the creation of high-quality, high-paying jobs.



[I] Tax Policy Center (2016). Statistics: State and Local General Expenditures per Capita 2004-2013.
[II] Ibid
[III] State & Local Government Finance Data Query System. The Urban Institute-Brookings Institution Tax Policy Center. Data from U.S. Census Bureau, Annual Survey of State and Local Government Finances, Government Finances, Volume 4, and Census of Governments (Years). Date of Access: (23-Jan-17 02:15 PM)
[IV] The difference in per person spending in 2013 and 2008 ($668) times Florida’s population in 2013 (19,552,860 according to U.S. Census Bureau)
[V] Office of Economic & Demographic Research (EDR), Fiscal Analysis in Brief, 2008 – 2013.