As the Florida Legislature steams towards a budget deal that increasingly looks like it would gut funding for Visit Florida, Gov. Rick Scott's office put out a letter warning of dire fiscal consequences if lawmakers don't change course.
The Florida House and Senate appeared to be nearing a budget deal that would cut Visit Florida's $76 million budget to just $25 million next year. Scott had called for $100 million for the agency to market the state.
If the Legislature goes through with the cuts, the state could see a big drop in revenues, according to Christian Weiss, policy coordinator of finance and economics for the state Office of Policy Budget.
In his memo to Scott, which Scott shared with the media on Wednesday, Weiss said based on his review of a study of Visit Florida's return on investment, the state could lose $210 million in state revenues by cutting the agency that deeply.
"Promoting and marketing the Florida brand to potential visitors is crucial to not only maintaining and but also increasing the number of visitors," Weiss said in his memo dated Wednesday. "More than half of the visitors are the direct result of such marketing efforts. Consequently, any decrease in advertising will negatively affect the state economy."
That warning letter comes a day after Scott's office put out a letter from the state's chief bond officer, Ben Watkins, who suggested a potential loss in tourism revenues could lead to a drop in state and local revenues and that, perhaps, could reduce bond ratings.