Visit Florida may lose its funding

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCJB)-- Florida's lead tourism agency could lose state funding by the end of the year unless lawmakers act. Jake Stofan explains funding for "Visit Florida" is shaping up to be a contentious issue between the house and senate.

Visit Florida, the state's primary advertising entity could lose $75 million in state funding in if lawmakers don't reauthorize the program, which appears possible.

"When we have issues come up like Mathew, Michael, and Irma as well as red tide, they make sure that people know that we are open for business," said Sen. Joe Gruters.

In a committee hearing, State Senators from areas hit by natural disasters said the program is important.

"Visit Florida has been there in all of the best times, but most specifically in all of the worst times," said Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto

But Visit Florida is no stranger to controversy.

Questionable spending decisions like paying Miami rapper Pit Bull $1 million to appear an AD have led some to question whether the state is getting a return on its investment.

While the Senate is already prepared to take Visit Florida funding to the chamber floor, the House hasn't scheduled it for a single hearing.

House Speaker Jose Oliva doesn't intend to change that.

"We need to fund Visit Florida until it expires and beyond that, we haven't had any intention," said Oliva

Visit Florida CEO Dana Young argues Florida gets $2 back in tax revenue generated by tourists for every dollar spent on the program.

"If the budget were cut to zero there would be a hole in the budget next year, rough numbers of $160 million out of general revenue," said Young.

And with less money that could mean cuts somewhere else.

Governor Ron DeSantis requested 75 million for Visit Florida in his proposed budget.