Published: Jan 12, 2012 6:09 PM EST

TALLLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - State economists expect modest growth in tax collections in the coming year.
    
Preliminary estimates unveiled on Thursday show economists expect state taxes to grow in the next 18 months, but not enough to make a large dent in the state's nearly $2 billion budget shortfall.
    
"I wouldn't expect it to help the Legislature in having a lot of new money," said Amy Baker, coordinator of the Office of Economic and Demographic Research.
    
Economists will meet all day to come up with a final figure. State lawmakers will use the estimates to draw up a new budget.
    
Senate President Mike Haridopolos, however, has suggested that legislators may want to wait until later in the year before starting work on the budget.
    
The state's fiscal year starts on July 1 and usually legislators wait until early May before passing the annual budget. Lawmakers started their annual session early this year in order to deal with the once-a-decade job of drawing new maps for Congressional and legislative districts.
    
Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, said many senators agree with Haridopolos about postponing any work on the budget until later in the year.
    
"What's the rush?" Latvala asked.
    
That attitude has not been shared by leading House Republicans who say there's no reason that legislators can't finish all their work within their normal 60-day calendar.
    
Latvala said that if the economy continues to recover, there's a chance that lawmakers could have more money and avoid the need for the same level of budget cuts that were approved last year.
    
"I'm not going to support the same level of cuts that I supported last year," said Latvala.
    
The preliminary figures show a range of possible scenarios from the state receiving about $70 million less in taxes over the next 18 months to growing nearly $200 million.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)