Spreg Breakers stroll down New Symrna Beach (Phot by Nigel Cook, News Journal)

FL - What they're saying: Volusia officials slam House plan to revamp tourism revenue

DAYTONA BEACH — Volusia County tourism officials have added their voices to the chorus of criticism of a proposed bill working its way through the Florida House that would eliminate state funding for the Visit Florida tourism-marketing agency and replace it with money drawn from the 62 county tourist-development councils.

“Visit Florida is the lifeblood, the lifeline of bringing tourists to Florida,” said Bob Davis, president and CEO of the Lodging & Hospitality Association of Volusia County and a fixture in the county’s hotel industry for nearly 60 years. “It would be a disaster to cut those funds.”

In case you missed it:House plan to overhaul Florida tourism revenue not welcome by industry, counties

Here’s what you need to know about the proposal and the reaction to it:  

What's in the bill?

Presented this week to the House Regulatory Reform & Economic Development Subcommittee, the legislation (PCB RRS 23-02) would require the state’s 62 tourist development councils — only five Florida counties don’t have them — to contribute a portion of their locally collected tourist development taxes to fully finance Visit Florida for the next three years.

The House otherwise would wipe out Visit Florida, having included no money for the agency in its budget proposal. The Senate, meanwhile, is recommending $80 million for the agency, while Gov. Ron DeSantis is seeking $100 million.

Visit Florida received $50 million from lawmakers last year and is considered by tourism advocates as an essential resource in helping the industry recover from the impact of back-to-back tropical storms Ian and Nicole this past fall.

Opponents of the proposal also are critical of the legislation’s requirement that counties hold voter referenda every six years to renew their tourist development taxes. At least 60% of voters would have to support the tax under the legislation, a threshold that likely could be difficult to overcome.

What is the tourist development tax?

The Local Option Tourist Development Act authorizes counties to levy five separate taxes on transient rental transactions (tourist development taxes or TDTs). Depending on a county’s eligibility and whether the county chooses to levy such taxes, the current TDT rate — more commonly known as the bed tax rate — varies from 0% to 6%.

By statute, the use of the funds is limited to capital construction of tourist-related facilities, tourist promotion, and beach and shoreline maintenance.

Statewide, TDT revenue has more than doubled over the past decade — from a total of $600 million in fiscal year 2012-2013 to a total of $1.5 billion in fiscal year 2022-2023, according to state figures.

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