A bill going before the Florida Senate Committee on Community Affairs drew sharp opposition from the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association (FRLA) yesterday.
Senate Bill (SB) 2008, sponsored by Senator Manny Diaz (R-District 36), would expand the approved uses of Florida’s Tourist Development Taxes (TDT) and Convention Development Taxes (CDT) by authorizing a county to impose a tourist development tax to finance flood mitigation projects or improvements and authorizing convention development taxes to be used to finance flood mitigation projects or improvements, etc.
The original approved uses of those taxes, adopted by voter referendum, were for the purpose of promoting and marketing tourism in Florida.
“No industry in Florida has been hit harder than the tourism and hospitality industries,” said FRLA President and CEO Carol Dover. “With an historic drop in visitors from 134 million to 86 million last year – the lowest in a decade – it is more important than ever to protect our tourism dollars and the stated mission of those dollars – to promote tourism so that we can bring back our guests and continue to rebuild.”
In a letter urging the committee to reject the proposed legislation, Dover said that because tourism is the “economic engine of the state” and one of the top employers, the impact of the job losses and reduction of revenue to the tourism industry has had a ripple effect, stretching to other industries and the overall economic health of Florida.
In her letter she wrote, “Respectfully, we ask you to oppose Senate Bill 2008, an act relating to tourist and convention development taxes. The bill aims to expand the approved uses of TDT and CDT to include flood mitigation projects and improvements. These taxes are critical to the continuing success and vitality of Florida’s tourism industry. Allowing revenues to be diverted to projects unrelated to the marketing and advertising of tourism jeopardizes the efforts of our industry to revive and renew in the wake of the pandemic.”
She said she recognized the importance of addressing flood mitigation and the impact of sea level rise, but there are many other existing and proposed financing and funding options that are designed specifically to address flooding issues.
“Diverting TDT and CDT funds for flooding mitigation, especially when there isn’t even a required demonstration of a direct nexus to tourism, dilutes the effectiveness of these revenues and hurts Florida’s communities who need these funds to attract visitors. Smaller communities will be especially hurt by the diversion of these funds to other non-tourism related projects,” Dover wrote.
The Capitolist reached out to Diaz for response to Dover’s letter, but has not yet received comment.