Richard Corcoran's offer: Keep Visit Florida, slash budget to $25 million, end bonuses, freeze benefits, cut travel
On the eve of a key committee vote, Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran on Monday offered what he considers an olive branch: He would let Visit Florida survive but with a much-reduced annual budget of $25 million and restrictions on bonuses, benefits and travel.
Gov. Rick Scott's office responded by calling a "67 percent cut to tourism marketing" unacceptable, and said: "More than a million Florida families rely on jobs in our tourism industry and are threatened with this massive cut." Scott's office said he supports transparency and accountability at Visit Florida and has proved it with "changes (and) new leadership at Visit Florida."
A Corcoran-crafted amendment to an incentives bill (HB 7005) to be offered by Rep. Paul Renner in the House Appropriations Committee Tuesday would require Visit Florida to agree to a series of restrictions as conditions for getting a $25 million a year from the Legislature.
The quasi-government agency would have to post every contract on a state website, have the governor approve all out-of-state and foreign travel, give every contract worth $750,000 or more to the Legislature for consultation, submit its operating budget to the Legislature every year and have the Senate confirm its CEO.
In a release, Corcoran said Visit Florida's budget has increased by 169 percent since 2009, from $29 million to $78 million, and that the average state tourism marketing budget is $20 million.
As part of the amendment, not immediately available, "Compensation of Visit Florida employees will be limited, benefits frozen at current levels and bonuses prohibited." Employees and board members will be prohibited from receiving food, beverages, lodging, entertainment or gifts from the agency or from any local tourism or economic development agency,
And in the event Scott and Visit Florida still don't get the message, Corcoran's young team of audio visual experts has even crafted a new logo showing a construction cone in front of the Visit Florida and the slogan: "Reforms in progress."