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After a long, drawn-out political process, Visit Florida's chances of maintaining its current funding level look decent. The debate helped spawn conversations among stakeholders at many other tourism boards about their own budgets and operations. Hopefully, everyone learned something.

There’s a budget agreement to save Visit Florida’s funding but it isn’t a done deal yet.

Florida Governor Rick Scott, House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Senate President Joe Negron announced on Friday that they have agreed to fund Visit Florida at its current $76 million level for fiscal 2018.

The catch, though, is that all three must also convince Florida lawmakers in a special session next week to vote to maintain the organization’s funding level.

If lawmakers vote during the special session, which is scheduled for June 7 to 9, to keep Visit Florida’s funding at $76 million it would save the tourism organization from a 67 percent funding cut next year that would cap its funding at $25 million. Both chambers of the state legislature approved that big budget cut last month.

The deal announcement, which took place at a press conference at Miami International Airport on June 2, comes after four months of political battles over Visit Florida’s funding between the Republican governor and fellow Republican Corcoran. It’s been six months since the tourism board’s faced a ton of criticism over its prior contract with with Miami rapper Pitball.

Visit Florida’s rescue is not a done deal — and tourism boards across the country are closely following the deliberations.

The state House and Senate must once again vote on the fate of the funding. But the fact that the Republican leaders of both chambers have reached a deal — after Corcoran staunchly opposed increasing Visit Florida’s budget or even keeping it at the current level — is a strong indication of how the legislators might vote.

Negron said next week lawmakers will vote on a proposal to keep Visit Florida’s funding at $76 million. “It’s my understanding that with regard to the budget there is a pathway forward for consideration of an agreement that would increase funds for Visit Florida…” said Negron on Friday at the press conference. “Those proposals have not yet emerged. I haven’t seen them. Those proposals will have to be filed by specific legislators and to be considered by committees, by the entire House and Senate.”

The Miami Herald reported on Friday that the three men reached a compromise when Scott agreed to veto more than $300 million in member projects from the $82.4 billion state budget that the House and Senate passed last month.

Scott had originally called for Visit Florida to receive $100 million next year but that amount was rejected by lawmakers.

Adoption of Visit Florida’s funding at around $76 million isn’t guaranteed but seems likely, according to Negron. “The governor has called us into special session and we¬†will be there and consider any proposals that emerge during that special session,” said Negron.

But, if Scott, Corcoran and Negron now agree on keeping Visit Florida’s funding at its current $76 million, where was that support during the legislative session?

Scott said he had been having conversations with Corcoran and Negron for months and feels this process was necessary. “I appreciate the fact that people fight for what they believe in and I think often what happens at the end of that discussion is that you end up with a good product,” Scott said during the press conference.

Visit Florida’s funding has been a concern for many destination marketers both within and outside Florida in recent months. “I think this will now put pressure on the other 49 states to go back and reassess how they’re doing their economic development,” Corcoran said.

A final vote on Visit Florida’s funding is expected by June 9.



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Tags: florida, funding, tourism, visit florida

Photo credit: Visit Florida's funding could be saved next week. Pictured are tourists walking along the boardwalk in Hollywood, Florida. J.Byerly / Flickr

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