Local chamber of commerce fights against tourism cuts

Posted at 11:48 PM, Mar 13, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-13 23:50:11-04

STUART--The state house approved two cost saving measures to cut Enterprise Florida, the state’s film office the small business development center, and to defund Visit Florida, the state's tourism agency.

Both bills passed by a wide margin. The lawmakers who support it say it's a waste of taxpayer money. They want more transparency.

It's a major blow to at least one community in our area.

For Martin County, the Chamber of Commerce president says Visit Florida has been worth every penny after the algae crisis nearly killed the industry altogether there.

“To me, Visit Florida is the goose that laid the golden egg,” says chamber president Joe Catrambone.

“(The Treasure Coast) was severely impaired but not devastated because I know for a fact that Visit Florida, along with our tourism development council did advertising letting people know we're open for business.”

Among the lawmakers who voted yes, State Representative Gayle Harrell, who represents Stuart. According to state records, she's accepted over $10,000 in donations from businesses that benefit from tourism, like entertainment or restaurants. Catrambone even donated $1,000 over the years. So is she turning her back on those who helped her get elected? To those she represents?

“I don't feel betrayed by our delegation,” he says.

He says overall, lawmakers have been good to the industry in Florida, and he'll wait and see if there is a replacement.

But right now, he wants his members to know what lays ahead.

“I haven't spoken to any of our delegation about it. I just saw what I saw, I was dismayed by it and sent it out because our members need to know.”

NewsChannel 5 reached out to Rep. Harrell for comment but so far haven’t heard back.

This goes to the senate next. Senate President Joe Negron who represents the Stuart area, says he does support reviewing the two agencies, but not a wholesale elimination of them.

The Florida Chamber of Commerce is vehemently against the elimination of the two agencies.