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Senate Passes Visit Florida Funding, House Still Reluctant

April 17th, 2019 by Jake Stofan

The Florida Senate has approved $50 million to fund the state’s primary tourism marketing agency, but the funding is far from guaranteed in the House.

Lawmakers coming into the Capitol Wednesday morning were greeted with a cup of green slime on their desks (a nod to last year’s toxic green algae outbreak) and a flyer highlighting the importance of the state’s primary tourism agency, Visit Florida, which advertised to the rest of the country that Florida was still open for business through recent natural disasters.

$50 million in funding for the agency was unanimously approved by the full Senate Wednesday morning.

Senate sponsor Joe Gruters says the funding is essential.

“For every dollar invested in tourism we get $2.15 return. There’s thousands of jobs that rely on the tourism that we bring to this state,” said Gruters.

While causing no controversy in the Senate, the House is threatening to cut off funding for Visit Florida altogether.

Early on in session House Speaker Jose Oliva made his position clear.

“We need to fund Visit Florida until it expires and beyond that we haven’t had any intention,” said Oliva in March.

However, some House members like Democratic Representative Evan Jenne believe Visit Florida plays an important role, despite controversial spending decisions in the past, like paying Miami Rapper Pit Bull $1 million for promoting the state in a video titled ‘Sexy Beaches’.

“I think that we’ve done a lot to reign them in in terms of how they spend their money and how much money they spend over the past few years, which has been a good thing,” said Jenne.

Senate President Bill Galvano says he’s hopeful a deal can be worked out to save Visit Florida.

“I think that’s an issue that will remain open until conference and we’ll work on it from there,” said Galvano.

For the past five years Visit Florida funding has averaged about $75 million annually.

Even if the Senate’s current proposal passes, the agency will see a 33% budget cut this year.

Only two weeks remain in session for the two chambers to come to agreement.

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