Use Tourism Tax Revenue to Invest in Affordable Housing and Public Transit

Florida House Speaker Chris Sprowls

In 2019, Orange County collected nearly $300 million in tourist development tax revenue. This money is collected through taxes on visitors who stay at hotels, motels, and other lodging in Orange County. There are very strict rules about how this money can be spent, which are set by state law. Today, this money can only be used on things like billboards, TV spots, and the convention center.

As our tourism industry recovers to 2019 levels of visitation (and beyond), it’s time to think hard about how this money should be used.

On November 2, state Representative Anna Eskamani introduced a legislative proposal that could allow counties to use tourist development tax revenues on more types of infrastructure that supports tourism, including public transit, sanitation facilities, and even affordable housing for tourism workers.

This is a much needed change. When adjusting for wages, the Orlando metropolitan area is the fifth least affordable in the country. We have a housing crisis and we have a wage crisis, and it’s our workers who suffer.

Please tell the Florida Legislature that we need the ability to use these funds on desperately needed infrastructure that will help our tourism workers who are most in need!

Sponsored by
Orlando, FL

To: Florida House Speaker Chris Sprowls
From: [Your Name]

Dear Speaker Chris Sprowls:

Orlando YIMBY (“yes in my backyard”) is a grassroots advocacy organization dedicated to ensuring that Central Florida invests in adequate levels of housing, transportation, and public services.

We have organized this letter, with the support of critical Orange County stakeholders, to request that you provide a committee assignment and hearing for HB6075 — Tourist Development Taxes.

This request is made by the hereunder signatories.

As you know, HB6075 is a bill that would repeal a provision requiring a specified percentage of all tourist development tax revenues be used to promote and advertise tourism before tourist development tax funds can be used on public facilities necessary to bolster tourism-related business.

Such an existing requirement has created a situation in which Orange County is unable to properly fund the public infrastructure and services often overburdened by our high numbers of visitors to the region. The strain on our transportation infrastructure, sewer systems, and public services is significant.

We believe it is critical that counties, including Orange, have adequate flexibility in how our tourist development tax revenues are spent. While we do appreciate the desire to establish guardrails around the use of particular tax revenues, we believe that the specific constraint that HB6075 seeks to address holds us back from making necessary investments in the infrastructure that keeps our tourism economy running.

Passage of HB6075 would provide Orange County with the flexibility needed to determine which investments will help continue to make the tourism industry in Orange County what we consider to be the best in the world. As always, we will continue to work closely and collaboratively with our stakeholders in the tourism industry to determine what is best for our community, our workers, our businesses, and our visitors.

Thank you for your consideration.