Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran is sending a tough message to the dozen local tourism boards across the state that have cut ties with the state’s tourism marketing agency, Visit Florida.
“Let me be painstakingly clear, if you spend one dime of taxpayer money you will do it in a transparent and accountable way,” Corcoran said in a letter sent out to the local boards Friday afternoon.
Corcoran is referring to the 12 local tourism development councils–including Miami, Orlando, Tampa Bay and the Florida Keys–that chose to end their partnerships with Visit Florida on July 1. The local boards were concerned about having to follow the new transparency rules imposed by the Legislature on the state marketing agency.
The speaker says the local boards can’t hide from state rules if they take tax dollars.
Corcoran says the 12 boards collect more than a half billion dollars in bed tax revenue, which he says represents 62 percent of the bed taxes collected statewide from both out-of-state and in-state visitors.
“These TDCs are sadly mistaken if they think Florida’s families don’t deserve to know how their tax dollars are spent,” Corcoran said in his statement. “It should also alarm every Floridian that these 12 organizations in particular, funded with hundreds of millions of dollars of your money, made the choice to hide from transparency rather than embrace it.”
The issue of transparency first arose late last year when Corcoran expressed concern over what he saw as Visit Florida’s lack of transparency and extravagant spending practices.
The speaker was particularly upset with a secretive $1 million contract Visit Florida awarded rapper Pitbull to promote Florida.
Corcoran moved to gut funding for the agency, which angered Gov. Rick Scott. Visit Florida is one of the governor’s budget priorities.
The governor and House speaker resolved their differences and, in a special session, lawmakers restored Visit Florida’s budget in exchange for some concessions from the governor. One of those was that Visit Florida would have to operate in the sunshine regarding its business dealings.
In his letter to the 12 local tourism boards, Corcoran said:
“The Legislature passed these important reforms and accountability measures to ensure that money taken from the taxpayer, nearly $1 billion in taxpayer funds, is spent in a transparent and accountable manner. The disclosure requirements of House Bill 1A are not onerous. The bill only requires local tourist development entities to report their direct expenditures, including salary data, to satisfy the statutory reporting obligations.”
The 12 local tourism boards that severed ties with Visit Florida over transparency issues are:
- Brevard County Tourism (Florida’s Space Coast)
- Experience Kissimmee
- Franklin County Tourist Development Council
- Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau
- Orlando North Seminole County Tourism
- Santa Rosa County Tourist Development Office
- Visit Orlando
- Visit South Walton
- Visit Tampa Bay
- Florida Keys & Key West Tourism Development Council
- Amelia Island Convention & Visitors Bureau
- Discover the Palm Beaches