Critics of Florida tourism agencies pleased with new accountability, transparency measures

June 19, 2017 10:08 AM

A public-private agency that promotes Florida’s tourism industry won full funding from the state legislature despite criticism that the state support amounts to corporate welfare.

But the $76 million approved for Visit Florida during a special session of the legislature last week came with stiffer reporting requirements aimed at making the agency’s activities more transparent.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, has been critical of both Visit Florida and Enterprise Florida, which doles out taxpayer-funded economic incentives designed to bring more jobs to the Sunshine State.

“As we’ve said, spending more taxpayer money on VISIT FL (or less) has not demonstrated a direct impact on tourism,” Corcoran said in a Twitter post in February.

An earlier version of the state budget that the legislature passed in May slashed funding for Visit Florida to $25 million. But Scott, a strong supporter of promoting tourism, called for a special session to restore full funding to the agency, along with other legislative matters.

“The speaker believes the oversight and accountability measures passed this session will ensure that Visit Florida spends taxpayer dollars appropriately and transparently,” Corcoran’s spokesman, Fred Piccolo, told Watchdog.org.

The legislation passed in the special session contains a number of transparency provisions, including a requirement that all the agency’s contracts be placed on the corporation’s website for public viewing, as well as limitations on expenses and matching requirements between public and private contributions. Read more...