Representatives from major hospitality organizations were in downtown Orlando on Tuesday afternoon to listen to a new proposal that would alter the process for spending tourism tax dollars.
An Orange County Charter Review Commission committee is considering sending a referendum to voters that would allow outside entities to apply for revenue collected by hotel visitors, for projects that would then be evaluated and sent to the Orange County Commission for approval.
Hoteliers support the proposal because they think it will result in more “heads in beds,” which benefit not only hospitality but overall tourism in the region. Orange County officials oppose the plan; they believe adding it to the county charter is binding power and could limit the power of the county commission.
“This will provide us with a huge return of investment” said CRC member Fred Brummer, there to make the presentation before the board, who called it a “template for transparency.”
“We’re adding too many layers to the process, and I’m not sure the system is broken to begin with” said Kevin Shaughnessey, chairman of the Charter Review Committee. Tuesday, he was only a visitor at the meeting.
“This is dangerous charter language, but that is not to say that the county is against an evaluation process.” said one county official, adding that it overrides the commission’s authority, and forces it consider projects on the strength of a Tourism Development Tax (TDT) evaluation.
Representatives from Universal Studios, the Central Florida Hotel and Lodging Association, and other organizations were on hand, but it was Harris Rosen, founder and president of Rosen Resorts, who slammed the entire process.
“We have to beg? That’s outrageous, I love this town,” Rosen said, citing millions in TDT his company generates and the benefits his employees.
“I was told if I speak here today, I’ll be called greedy and selfish,” he said. “I defy anyone here … to call me greedy and selfish. Tourism employs so many, but yet we treat it so badly. We abuse it. How incredibly sad.”
Ultimately, the committee opted to return to the issue at a later date, after Brummer’s updated proposal is reviewed by legal counsel.