Florida House Proposes 67 Percent Cut to Visit Florida Budget

Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran (R-37 district) said Monday he would give some state funding to Visit Florida if the agency receives more oversight, according to the Naples Daily News. He proposed the destination marketing organization become part of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, with a budget of $25 million, less than a third of the $76 million Gov. Rick Scott wants for Visit Florida in next year's budget. 

The measure comes on the heels of the House's introduction of a bill earlier this month that would abolish Visit Florida. The House had threatened to cut the DMO's funding in December, 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.

"As I stated back in December, it is the House's job to decide if Visit Florida should exist," said Corcoran. "That remains to be seen, but agreeing to these changes would be a giant leap in the right direction. Rest assured the House will not spend another penny on Visit Florida should accountability and transparency measures be rejected."

In response, Gov. Scott's office released the following statement: "The Florida House is proposing a 67 percent cut to tourism marketing. More than a million Florida families rely on jobs in our tourism industry and are threatened with this massive cut.  Unfortunately, some politicians in the Florida House think fighting for jobs is simply hysteria and don't understand that jobs are not expendable to families who have to put food on the table. Gov. Scott believes in transparency and accountability for any taxpayer dollars used and that is why he has demanded changes and brought in new leadership at Visit Florida."

Ken Lawson, president and CEO of Visit Florida, also released a response: "Like Gov. Scott, I wholeheartedly disagree with this misinformed proposal, and I will fight for Visit Florida [today] in front of the House Appropriations Committee." Stay tuned to M&C for key updates on this story.