Dana Young says Tallahassee's angry tone doesn't help; opposes killing Enterprise Florida, Visit Florida
Florida’s constitution gives the Legislature one job — passing a balanced budget — so it shouldn’t be that hard, right?
“Sounds pretty easy, but this year it doesn’t feel that way,” state Sen. Dana Young, R-Tampa, told about 70 people Friday at Café con Tampa, a weekly discussion group that meets near downtown Tampa. “There is this angry, shrill tone tone coming out of Tallahassee and I truly don’t understand why, because I feel like we’re all on the same team and should be working together to get a budget passed. But this shrill screaming is discouraging.”
Later, asked by political reporter William March to expand on that thought and maybe say who’s she’s talking about, Young said, “You know I’m not going to answer that.”
“I think that we need to focus more on what unites us than what divides us and need to focus on working together to get things done for Florida and not taking two or three issues and blowing them up,” said Young, elected to the Senate in November after serving six years in the House, where she rose to House Majority Leader. “I just don’t get it. I don’t get the value of shrill conversation.”
It’s nice to be a freshman legislator again, said Young, whose Senate district covers much of the city of Tampa and the western half of unincorporated Hillsborough County.
“It’s liberating,” she said. “I can now just focus on things and not worry about the big picture from a leadership perspective. I can just file bills” — a proposed ban on fracking, a bill to allow craft breweries that produce fewer than 7,000 kegs a year to distribute their product themselves — “and see what happens.”
Asked whether she supports the idea of killing Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida, something the leadership in the House proposed this week, Young said no.
“I don’t think we need to be getting rid of state agencies that have proved to be useful,” she said. “I think there are legitimate arguments on both sides.”
Gov. Rick Scott, she said, favors spending money to bring in large corporations from other states to establish headquarters or large divisions in Florida.
“The other side of that, and I’m probably a little more on that side, is whether it makes sense to use state taxpayer dollars to support businesses that are already here,” she said. “To support, not just the huge corporate headquarters of Fortune 500 companies, but smaller businesses that have been here. I’d kind of like to see the tax on commercial leases go away, and that is a huge hit to the budget. That would help every business here in Florida.”
On Visit Florida, Young said, “I actually do believe that it makes sense to spend money to promote Florida in other states. … I think it works. Since we’ve been investing in Visit Florida, our tourism numbers have hit record highs. … They have made some bad decisions, and we can make changes at the top and get rid of management that has made those decisions, but why completely do away with an agency, by all appearances, is doing a decent job of bringing people here? That would not be a vote that I would take.”
Government watchdog Tom Rask, who asked the question, noted after the meeting that the Legislature's Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability has reported twice that Visit Florida should improve how it measures its performance and the return on investment that Florida gets for the money spent on tourism promotion.