House and Senate remain at odds over economic development, VISIT FLORIDA money

Lawmakers should avoid a special session to resolve the fate of VISIT FLORIDA and economic development funding.

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

But the differences are not so glaring and will likely be resolved in the coming days, unlike in 2017 when an extraordinary session was needed to find a compromise.

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

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

Formal negotiations between the parties on the budget was “ejected” from the tourism, transportation and economic development subcommittees on Thursday evening, and will be taken up by the full appropriations committees.

Another sticking point is cultural and museum grants in the State Department 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 building in Surfside, is another hurdle.

Financial director Jimmy Patronisbacked by the governor. Ron DeSantis, pushed for $10 million. The Senate agreed, but the House preferred only $5 million.


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