State senate leader backs local tourism district funding

Mystic - State Sen. Donald Williams told a Chamber of Commerce meeting Friday at the Hilton Mystic that he believes in regional tourism districts, “especially in eastern Connecticut,” but that local officials need to prove the value of their marketing efforts to survive cuts proposed in Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s budget.

“I’m not saying there should be a tourism district for every town ... but for eastern Connecticut -- yes, yes,” said Williams, D-Brookyn, president pro tempore of the state Senate.

Williams told a crowd of more than 100 at a breakfast meeting of the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut that no one is out to get the regional tourism districts. But projected budget deficits in the next two years are requiring some hard decisions about cutbacks, he said.

“We need to show the benefit and the value,” Williams said. “It will not be easy ... because of the billion-dollar deficit.”

Malloy had planned to spend $15 million on tourism promotion during the current fiscal year, but had to cut aid to $9.4 million as falling state revenue led to budget cuts. Malloy is again proposing to spend $15 million in the upcoming budget, an amount that Williams said would pay even more dividends this time around because the startup costs of developing the “Still Revolutionary” marketing campaign have already been paid.

Williams said it would be unwise to cut back on the state’s commitment to tourism now that Connecticut is back on the radar screen for visitors from other states.


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