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Continuing sales pitch for Visit Florida, Rick Scott warns of hit to state revenues

in Statewide by

Gov. Rick Scott has issued another missive urging full financial support for Visit Florida.

This one is a memo written to Scott by Christian Weiss, in-house economist to the governor, who warns that cutting the tourism-development program by $50 million — as House and Senate budget negotiators are considering doing — would result in a $210 million decline in state revenues.

Two thirds of that would comprise sales tax receipts to the state, Weiss wrote; the rest, sales tax distributions to local governments and gas, rental car, and other taxes.

Earlier in the day, Scott issued a statement in support of economic incentives programs including Visit Florida. On Tuesday, his office distributed a letter from Division of Bond Finance director Ben Watkins to the House and Senate budget chairmen, warning that cutting Visit Florida could damage the state’s credit rating.

Nearly 113 million tourists visited the state in 2016, Weiss notes — a nearly 6 percent increase over 2015, and the sixth straight record-setting year. They spent $109 billion here.

“These expenditures are felt throughout the state economy, spurring economic growth and employment in all areas of the state,” Weiss wrote. “Promoting and marketing the Florida brand to potential visitors is crucial to not only maintaining but also increasing the number of visitors.”

More than of those visitors were lured by the state’s marketing, he wrote.

“Consequently, any decrease in advertising will negatively affect the state economy.”

State economists have estimated that Visit Florida’s efforts help create nearly 20,000 jobs annually.

Michael Moline is a former assistant managing editor of The National Law Journal and managing editor of the San Francisco Daily Journal. Previously, he reported on politics and the courts in Tallahassee for United Press International. He is a graduate of Florida State University, where he served as editor of the Florida Flambeau. His family’s roots in Jackson County date back many generations.

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