PHOTO: Destinations like Flagler County, Florida, could be impacted by the de-funding of Visit Florida. (photo via Flickr/Rachel Kramer)
On Friday, the Florida House of Representatives voted 80-35 to cut funds dramatically to the Visit Florida tourism agency and place restrictions on how the agency uses the money.
According to NaplesNews.com, the bill was sponsored by Rep. Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast and allows Visit Florida to negotiate with the Legislature on how much the agency would receive from the government—with the caveat that it must raise an equivalent amount in private dollars.
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Additionally, the bill will add regulations to how much taxpayer money can be used for Visit Florida salaries while it institutes rigid transparency rules to ensure accountability on the part of the tourism agency as well. The bill will also withhold more than $180 million in taxpayer money from Enterprise Florida and over 20 other business incentive programs promoted by Florida Governor Rick Scott.
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After passing through the House, the bill will have to go through the Senate where it will await committee assignment by Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart. Democrat opponents say the state needs a strong Visit Florida presence because of the importance of tourism to local economies.
“This isn’t about Universal or Disney, they’ll be OK,” Loranne Ausley, D-Tallahassee, told NaplesNews.com. “This is about the restaurants, and mom & pop shops that are going to be impacted.”