Budget conference: House, Senate remain at odds on economic development, VISIT FLORIDA money

Capitol Rotunda
Lawmakers should avoid a Special Session to resolve the fate of VISIT FLORIDA and economic development funding.

Five years after the House and Senate had a face-off over the fate of economic development programs, the chambers are again at odds over funding for the state’s job creation and tourism marketing groups.

But the differences are not as stark and will likely be resolved in the coming days, unlike in 2017 when a Special Session was required to find a compromise.

VISIT FLORIDA, the state’s public-private tourism marketing agency, is funded at $50 million in both budgets. But the House provides only non-recurring funds — one-time funding not guaranteed in future years — while the Senate prefers recurring funding.

The chambers also are squabbling over economic incentives, tax breaks and other inducements for companies that invest and add jobs in Florida. The House wants $33.5 million, while the Senate wants $43.5 million.

Formal negotiations between the sides over the budget was “bumped” from the Tourism, Transportation and Economic Development subcommittees Thursday night, and will be taken up by the full appropriations committees.

Another sticking point is cultural and museum grants in the Department of State budget, which are set at $30 million by the Senate. The House, however, wants $46 million.

Funding for new equipment and training for Florida’s urban search and rescue teams, which respond to emergencies such as hurricanes as well as the recent collapse of the Champlain Towers apartment building in Surfside, is another hurdle.

Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, backed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, has pushed for $10 million. The Senate has agreed, but the House prefers just $5 million.

Gray Rohrer


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