House Speaker says Visit Florida will be funded for one more year

Published: Apr. 26, 2019 at 9:59 PM CDT
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Governor Ron DeSantis continues to have a honeymoon with state lawmakers.

The leadership of Florida House has sought to close Visit Florida, the state’s tourism marketing agency for the last three years, but it will survive at least one more year thanks to the Governor.

It was a million dollar video featuring the rapper Pit Bull funded by the state’s tourism agency that first raised legislative eyebrows. Then there was a little-watched cooking show costing hundreds of thousands of dollars and a fishing show.

After a two year fight, Visit Florida survived with the caveat that it would go out of business this coming October unless renewed by lawmakers.

Keeping it alive wasn’t something the Speaker of the House was willing to do until Friday.

“The Governor’s Office has expressed a desire to have it continue, go forward so that he would have the opportunity to make an assessment of his own of how unnecessary it is,” said Oliva.

It is welcome news to the Senate tourism budget chairman Travis Hutson.

“If you want to run government like a business, you have to advertise. The Senate has always had a position of keeping Visit Florida and funding it,” said Hutson.

It is also welcome news to local tourism agencies that depend on it for a bulk of their funding.

“Every dollar that we spend has over a two dollar return on investment through Visit Florida, so it's important we continue to fund Visit Florida,” said Carolyn Johnson with the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

This year there was $75 million in the current budget for Visit Florida, but the Senate budget proposal only had $50 million. How much the agency gets will be the subject of negotiations over the weekend, but the full $75 million it got this year is probably a heavy lift, even for the Governor.

Speaker Oliva was asked if the agency would be fully funded, but he balked at saying it would. When asked if he was okay with another year, he responded, ‘okay' was a strong word.