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Flanked by Central Florida tourism executives, Gov. Rick Scott on Friday called on state lawmakers to spend $100 million next year on travel advertising.
The tourism industry subsidy would be the largest in state history and a nearly 60 percent increase from the $63.5 million Florida is spending this fiscal year on Visit Florida, the state’s travel-marketing agency.
Scott, who has set a goal of drawing 100 million tourists to Florida annually, framed the issue as one of job creation, as money spent by travelers spurs demand for housekeepers, waiters, ride operators, cab drivers and other tourism jobs.
“It’s $100 million to get more tourists and more jobs for Florida families,” the Republican governor said during a news conference at Orlando International Airport, where he was joined by representatives from Universal Orlando, Walt Disney World and SeaWorld Orlando, and a host of smaller attractions.
Scott said Visit Florida’s budget boost would allow the agency to extend its domestic advertising year-round, expand international marketing programs and incentivize more non-stop air service to Florida airports.
In a brief session with reporters following the announcement, Scott was asked whether he was paying attention to the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority where two of his board appointees — Scott Batterson and Marco Pena — have been accused of breaking the state’s public-meeting laws in order to discuss the potential firing of the agency’s former director, Max Crumit, who subsequently resigned.
Batterson and Pena — along with board member Noranne Downs, a Florida Department of Transportation official who also ultimately answers to Scott — then won a 3-2 vote this week to give the minimum $175,000-a-year job to outgoing state Rep. Steve Precourt, R-Orlando.
The two board members to vote against Precourt’s hiring, Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs and authority Chairman Walter Ketcham, have said the maneuvering smacks of political favoritism. And State Attorney Jeff Ashton has launched an investigation.
Scott would not say whether he intends to get involved.
“We’ll see what happens with the investigation,” he said.
Staff writer Dan Tracy contributed to this report. firstname.lastname@example.org or 407-420-5414 ___