Budget conference: Safe landing for Space Florida, shakier ground for VISIT Florida
A SpaceX Falcon 9 lifts off rom Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center early Friday, Aug. 7, 2020, as seen in this four-minute time exposure from Cocoa Beach, Fla. The rocket is carrying 57 Starlink satellites and two Earth observation spacecraft for BlackSky. This the 10th Starlink launch. Photo via Malcolm Denemark/Florida Today via AP.

space x - liftoff
A $6 million request from Space Florida for financing was nowhere to be seen in budget talks — until Sunday night.

Space Florida’s requested $6 million to aid financing for aerospace firms starting or expanding operations in the state wasn’t a part of budget negotiations for the first 54 days of the 60-day legislative session.

It has now popped into the final spending plan still being negotiated between the House and Senate, after legislative leaders inserted the money in the latest budget offers Sunday night.

Space Florida President Frank DiBello and Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez, who chairs the group, had previously griped the money wasn’t part of either chamber’s budget.

The group, which caters to the state’s large aerospace industry, has called for and received the $6 million for financing in recent years, often without complaint from lawmakers. It already has $12.5 million in the budget for its own operations.

Lawmakers also agreed to use only non-recurring money to fund VISIT FLORIDA, the state’s public-private tourism marketing group. The $50 million it will receive is the same as the current fiscal year, but the non-recurring funds are a less stable source of revenue, and puts their funding in jeopardy the following year.

Senate leaders had previously preferred to use $50 million in recurring funds but instead came to the House’s position of non-recurring money. The move puts VISIT FLORIDA in the odd position of having shaky funding even as it becomes more sturdy in law.

Sen. Ed Hooper, a Clearwater Republican, said last week the Senate will agree to extend VISIT FLORIDA’s authorization in state law to 2028 when they receive the bill from the House, which passed the measure last week. Under current law, VISIT FLORIDA’s authorization expires on Oct. 1, 2023.

The House and Senate must resolve differences in several budget areas in the coming days, including in complex areas such as PreK-12 education and health care. A final budget agreement must be in place by Tuesday, to meet the 72-hour “cooling period” required by the constitution before lawmakers can vote on the budget and end by Friday, the scheduled last day of the Legislative Session.

Gray Rohrer


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