Legislature split on VISIT FLORIDA, affordable housing money
Travis Hutson

The two chambers aren't aligned on key budget items.

The House and Senate are moving forward with different plans to fund the state’s tourism-marketing agency and affordable housing trusts, setting the stage for budget negotiations.

State Sen. Travis Hutson, who chairs the Transportation, Tourism, and Economic Development Appropriations Committee, published a budget Wednesday that funds VISIT FLORIDA at $50 million.

On Tuesday, Hutson’s House counterpart Jay Trumbull had recommended closing the agency with a $19 million appropriation lasting it until Oct. 1, a shutter date in current statutes.

“When I ran for office I said I’d run government like a business,” Hutson, a St. Augustine Republican, told reporters after reading highlights from the budget. “In my business back home, we advertise, we market.”

“To come up here and say you’re not going to market and advertise for your business to get your tourism in here is a bad idea.”

Trumbull, a Panama City Republican, also wants to ax Enterprise Florida, a public-private agency focused on job creation. Hutson has recommended $18 million for the agency.

Both chamber subcommittees have zeroed out the Job Growth Grant Fund.

Compared to Gov. Ron DeSantisproposed budget, the House and Senate are coming up short for tourism marketing and the Job Growth Grant Fund, which doles out money for projects that have an eye toward economic development.

DeSantis recommended $76 million for VISIT FLORIDA. He also proposed funding the Job Growth Grant Fund at $85 million.

The Senate and DeSantis, however, are on the same page when it comes to affordable housing. Both want to fully fund the state’s affordable housing pool, known as the Sadowski Trust.

But the House plan proposed by Trumbull sweeps funds from the trust.

In total, the Senate and House are more than $200 million apart on funding for affordable housing.

Trumbull’s budget provides about $49.5 million for the State Housing Initiatives Partnership Program (SHIP) — one of the Sadowski-backed programs. It also appropriates more than $74 million for the Rental Recovery Loan Program (RRLP), a hurricane-related affordable housing initiative.

Hutson’s budget, in contrast, does not sweep anything from the Sadowski Trust. It funds SHIP at more than $170 million and provides nearly $54 million for other affordable housing programs.

A $100 million appropriation for two special hurricane-related housing programs also is included in Hutson’s budget, including $10 million for the RRLP.

Danny McAuliffe

Danny is a contributor at floridapolitics.com. He is a graduate of Fordham Law School and Florida State University, where he served as the editor of the FSView & Florida Flambeau. Reach him at [email protected].


  • Alex Farr

    March 21, 2019 at 9:12 pm

    As a lifelong resident of Florida, and for the past 39 years a resident of St. Augustine Beach (St. Johns County,) I can truly say we no longer need funds for any aggressive marketing, and at best, only minimal marketing. Just as housing development has expanded beyond our resources, our beaches and natural areas unique to Florida are being destroyed by the demands of tourism. There comes a time when enough is enough, and we have already gone past that time.

    • Angie Zok

      March 22, 2019 at 1:02 pm

      Alex… Tourism IS the economic engine that drives this state. As the state’s No. 1 industry, tourism is crucial to Florida’s economy. This is why we don’t pay state income tax. However, I agree, the overdevelopment in St. Johns County is definitely out of control and much more of a culprit for any negative impact to our environment. But, it would be a massive mistake to cut our state’s tourism office (Visit Florida) and the marketing dollars. Visitor spending supports approximately 1.4 million Florida jobs, with an associated income of $53 billion. These jobs represent 17.1 percent of total employment, supporting one out of every six jobs in the state. Hopefully our state legislature will take a look back at what happened when Colorado’s legislature in their infinite wisdom cut their state tourism office and marketing funds. Now consider that massive loss that would be for Florida. A snippet from the report from Longwoods International recapping the rise and fall of Colorado Tourism…

      “In 1993, Colorado became the only state to eliminate its tourism marketing function, when it cut its $12 million promotion budget to zero. As a result, Colorado’s domestic market share plunged 30% within two years, representing a loss of over $1.4 billion in tourism revenue annually. Over time, the revenue loss increased to well over $2 billion yearly. In the important summer resort segment, Colorado dropped from first place among states to 17th. It took until 2000 for the industry to convince the legislature to reinstate funding with a modest $5 million budget. Research tracked the effectiveness of the state’s tourism campaigns over the next few years, and demonstrated an ROI of over 12:1. In 2006, Governor Bill Owens signed a bill upping the tourism promotion budget to $19 million. By 2007, travel to Colorado rebounded to an all-time high, with 28 million visitors spending $9.8 billion enjoying their trips to the state. The Colorado saga provides a cautionary tale for financial decision-makers who, in these difficult economic times, are naturally looking at major cutbacks in all areas, including promotion. It clearly illustrates that marketing is an essential net generator of revenue and profits to the organization, not a cost.”

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