Fla. Bed Tax Change Would Fund Lifeguards, Beach Patrol

There is a controversial move in Tallahassee to allow smaller coastal counties more flexibility with Bed Tax collections.

The proposal would allow those counties to spend TDC money on lifeguards and beach patrols.

State law says Tourist Development Councils are supposed to spend Bed Tax collections on marketing.

The amendment, added to a broader tax administration bill, would allow coastal communities with a population less than 250-thousand, to use the tax money to pay for lifeguards and beach patrols.

Senate President Don Gaetz is supporting the proposal, but others are against the plan.

"There are enough rules right now concerning the TDC money and how it can be spent and I think it's a good idea to limit it,” said Bay County Commissioner Mike Thomas.

Thomas is not against lifeguards, he just does not believe the county should pay for that service.

"I think we need lifeguards on the beach,” he said. “I think if you rent to someone and you want them to have lifeguards, that's something you should do. There's a lot of things I think we need that I don't think is the government's place to pay for."

But supporters say it is the water that attracts tourists, and the county needs to protect them.

"You don't have to be a rocket scientists to figure out that the beaches are the primary attraction,” said Mike Hudson, an aquatic rescue team coordinator and paramedic. “Yet, you fail to supply them with adequate protection on the beach, eyes on the water, and lifeguards."

State Representative Matt Caldwell filed an amendment to strip the Bed Tax provision from the tax administration bill.

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