by Lisa A. Grimaldi | June 02, 2017
Florida Gov. Rick Scott and state legislators have forged a deal that would, among other key issues, give Visit Florida a $76 million budget, according to press reports; the initial state budget called for the destination marketing organization's spending to be slashed to $25 million. The $76 million matches the tourism body's current budget; it is expected to be approved during a three-day special session, taking place in Tallahassee June 7-9.
Through the agreement, Gov. Scott signed the state's $82.4 million budget, rather than his threatened veto after lawmakers slashed money to the tourism marketing agency and other pet projects. Instead, he vetoed several specific items, including the $25 million Visit Florida budget.
Following Gov. Scott's announcement of the measure on Friday, Ken Lawson, Visit Florida's president and CEO, urged members and stakeholders to continue lobbying for the increased DMO budget. "Before the Florida Legislature comes back to Tallahassee on Wednesday, we need you to respectfully call and email your local legislators to tell them how Visit Florida drives visitors to your community and puts money into your back pocket," he said. "Find your legislator's contact information here. We all understand the important role that Visit Florida plays in Florida job creation. Now is the time to share your story with your local representatives."
Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran (R-37th district) initially called for cuts to Visit Florida back in December 2016, following revelations that the agency had penned a million-dollar marketing deal with rapper Pitbull, who produced a controversial video to promote the state featuring scantily clad models and lyrics some found degrading to women. That kerfuffle led the dismissal of several top Visit Florida officials and the resignation of former CEO Will Seccombe. In January, he was replaced by Ken Lawson; three weeks after taking the helm, he announced a number of enhancements and increased transparency for the destination marketing organization's finances and contracts.