Chambers will now face competition for tourism promotion dollars After an attorney general's opinion last year put in doubt whether chambers of commerce could use "hotel-motel" taxes for tourism promotion, Rep. Barbara Bailey decided to clarify the issue through legislation. Bailey introduced House Bill 1254 that would have allowed chambers to continue to receive a portion of the 2 percent lodging tax from cities and counties for tourism efforts. The House of Representatives decided to forgo Bailey's legislation Thursday in favor of Senate Bill 5647. The measure would expand the use of the lodging tax far beyond what was originally intended. Bailey urged lawmakers to reject the proposal. "This broadens the ability for these lodging tax dollars to be spent in ways that were never intended. It actually opens this up to many activities, festivals and events that were not designed to bring outside visitors into communities. Some of these would be festivals that are simply for that community and not for tourism promotion," said Bailey, R-Oak Harbor. "I'm most concerned that this bill would allow for operational costs of these special events. This would not be in direct promotion of tourism," added Bailey. "Even worse, our chambers of commerce that have been doing a very good job of tourism promotion will now have to compete with other entities in our small communities for these very limited funds. This has the potential to cripple local tourism promotion." Bailey offered an amendment to limit the use of the lodging tax to chambers of commerce and nonprofit 501 (c)(6) organizations contracted for tourism promotion by municipalities that collect the tax -- the same language as her bill. The amendment was rejected. "This is very disappointing. It was never my intent to open up this revenue for other entities to use for other purposes. This is a very specific tax on a very specific industry to promote tourism efforts in a community. The Senate bill will force our chambers of commerce to now compete for these funds and that's very unfortunate," noted Bailey. Senate Bill 5647 was approved in the House, 73-25. It now goes back to the Senate for further consideration. Posted by Colleen Lane on
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