BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Governor Rick Scott made a stop in Bay County to fight for two programs he says are critical in keeping the visitors coming and creating jobs.
"One in every six jobs in our state is tied to tourism and hospitality," said Florida Governor Rick Scott.
As this year's legislative session wraps up, Governor Scott has been touring cities across the state to ask citizens to make their issues known to state representatives.
"What we are experiencing right now in Tallahassee is a legislature we hope will do the right thing and fully fund Enterprise Florida and fully fund Visit Florida, so we can continue to see the economic growth that we've experienced over the last six years," said Executive Director of Economic Opportunity, Cissy Proctor.
"Make sure everybody calls their senate and house of representative member because sometime [Friday] the budget will be finished and we have to make sure we fully fund Visit Florida. I also want to make sure we fully fund Enterprise Florida, because that is where we get more jobs," said Governor Scott.
The governor is stressing the importance paying for two programs he's pushed during his term that may be drastically cut from the state's budget.
"So we're really focused on sending the message to the legislature right now that they must fully fund Visit Florida and Enterprise Florida. They're and integral part of the organization that really does work every day, not only on the state level but also the local level here in Panama City," said Proctor.
Proctor said the funding is critical to growing jobs and companies in the state.
"If we don't get our full funding for those two programs, we're gonna have to take cuts and it's gonna hurt," Proctor added.
"Tourism funds 1.4 million jobs in Florida. And in Panama City, they work with Visit Florida to ensure that tourists come here, spend their money and help our economy grow," said President and CEO of Visit Florida, Ken Lawson. "If Visit Florida is not fully funded, it may send a negative message to our people and jobs."
But Governor Scott said he's optimistic lawmakers will come up with a budget that'll continue to help the state grow.
"We get five times our money back in return, so it's an investment for our state and on top of that we get all these jobs," said Scott. "It puts us at a competitive disadvantage. We're competing with 49 other states and other countries and so what it will mean is we won't diversify our economy. It will make it very difficult."
"Private sector businesses have created over 1,353,000 new jobs. Our labor force is growing at six times the national rate," Proctor pointed out. "We've got companies that are creating jobs at almost double the national rate, so what's happening in Florida is amazing and we have to make strategic investments to continue that growth."
"This budget has been done in secret, we don't know what's in the budget so I guess we'll find out when they finally finish," said Scott. "I think the politicians in Tallahassee are turning their backs on their constituents."
"If [Enterprise Florida] is not in the budget, "he continued, "I can't add any money. It's really disappointing... I walked in with a four-billion-dollar budget deficit. I don't want to go back to that."
The legislative session ended Friday and the budget will be presented to the Governor. He'll then have the right to either veto it or make modifications to the bill.