by Lisa A. Grimaldi | June 12, 2017
The Florida legislature has fully restored funding to Visit Florida at $76 million for 2017-2018 -- matching the current budget -- after initially cutting the DMO's funding to $25 million. The move followed Gov. Rick Scott's veto of the cut and consequent restoration of the $76 million budget during a special legislative session that took place June 7-9.
"We've fully funded Visit Florida so we can continue to break visitation records," said Scott, a major proponent of the DMO, in a statement.  
In his remarks following the special session, Visit Florida's president and CEO Ken Lawson said, "Today is a huge win for the state of Florida with the Legislature's passage of House Bill 1A, which funds Visit Florida at $76 million and adds strong transparency and accountability to our organization. I want to thank Gov. Scott for his steadfast leadership in ensuring Visit Florida is fully funded. Over the past few months, the governor has traveled the state discussing the importance of tourism, and because of his efforts and those of our entire industry, we will be able to continue to attract record numbers of visitors to our state. I want to also thank the Senate and the House for supporting Visit Florida with this legislation. Today's victory will allow us to continue working with our industry partners to market Florida as a global destination and help us reach our goal of 120 million [annual] visitors."
The controversy over Visit Florida's future and funding began last December, when Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran (R-37th district) called for cuts to the DMO 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 to the dismissal of several top Visit Florida officials and the resignation of former CEO Will Seccombe. In January, Seccombe was replaced by Lawson, who subsequently announced a number of enhancements and increased transparency for the organization's finances and contracts.