Orange County proposes historic arts investment after DeSantis vetoes millions in arts funding – WFTV

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — Orange County commissioners are doubling down on arts and culture funding in the next budget year.

During a Tuesday Board of County Commissioners meeting, commissioners was briefed on the “State of the Arts” across Orange County.

A focal point of the discussion was Governor Ron DeSantis’ recent veto of upwards of $32 million in statewide arts and culture grants.

The Governor said during a press conference, that he did not believe Florida taxpayers could support the funding and specifically said he could not sell taxpayers on what he called the “sexual” Fringe festival. 

According to Orange County’s Arts and Cultural Affairs office, that money would have supported more than 600 arts and culture organizations across Florida, and approximately $1.9 million would have gone to 49 arts and cultural organizations in Orange County.

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Orlando Fringe said about $70,000 of that funding would have gone to their festival.

On Tuesday, commissioners discussed their own historic investment in the arts amid the announced veto.

In the next county budget, about $15 million will help fund 40 different local arts and culture groups.

The majority of that money is coming from the Tourist Development Tax, revenue generated by a 6-percent tax on hotel stays and other short-term rentals.

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Commissioners said Tuesday, they believe arts and culture funding is a worthwhile Tourist Development Tax investment.

They cited a 2023 study that showed 41 percent of art attendees came to Orange County from out of town.

“We recognize that it [the arts] is an economic driver and is the source of so much of our creative working economy,” said Vicki Landon, who oversees Orange County’s Arts & Cultural Affairs office.

Landon told Channel 9 for decades local organizations have relied on state funding and are now having to make tough decisions because of the Governor’s veto.

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“You might see reduced performance elements, you might see shorter runs of shows, smaller dance ensembles … and some organizations are cutting their programs entirely,” said Landon.

Still Landon said Orange County’s investment is only likely to grow in the future.

The current Tourist Development Tax plan allocates funding to the arts as a percentage of the overall Tourist Development Tax collection, meaning as the economy grows so will the investment in the arts.

“Orange County’s commitment to the arts is unwavering and it’s strong and it’s growing,” said Landon.

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