The Florida House of Representatives has passed an amendment that will allow the state to expand the uses of tax funds for enhancing “tourist-related business activity”.
The Tourist Development Tax (TDT) in Florida generates approximately $620m per year for the state through a levy charged on visitors staying at hotels.
The money is used for tourism promotion, beach and shoreline maintenance, and the construction of attractions such as convention centres and sports arenas. However, restrictions in the bill meant that the tax funds could not be used for transportation, drainage or other infrastructure elements.
This caused problems when Hurricane Irma struck the state as the law prohibited the use of the tax funds to help clean the area’s tourist attractions. It also caused difficulties for Palm Beach County when it built the Palm Beach County Convention Center in 2004 as it could not use TDT funds to construct a skyway across a highway.
The amendment that passed will allow the tax earnings to be utilised for anything that would enhance “tourist-related business activity”, providing municipalities with much more freedom.
Some restrictions will still remain. According to the amendment, TDT funds can only be approved after an independent economic analysis shows the tourism benefits of a project. It also states that TDT money cannot exceed 70% of the total funding.
While the bill has passed the Florida House, a companion bill is still making its way through the state senate.
Image: c. Al Muya.