WA State Senate Bill to expand meaning of 'tourism promotion' Hotel tax would be diverted to funding private land for 'habitat management'

Olympia, WA - 2/8/05 - A Senate bill currently on the 'fast track' would take money from hotel/motel tax and divert it to fund private landowners for 'habitat management'.

WSH&LA (The Washington State Hotel and Lodging Association) issued an action alert for hoteliers to voice their opposition to SSB 5005 (Supporting nature-based tourism), regarding Hotel-Motel Tax Funding of Nature-Based Tourism. Members were advised to contact Lieutenant Governor Brad Owen and members of the Senate Rules Committee and ask them to stop the bill. The bill, however, now appears to be on a fast track: it is likely to pass the Senate and be sent to the House Natural Resources, Ecology and Parks Committee, according to the alert.

The bill, introduced by Sen. Ken Jacobsen on January 10, 2005, is meant "to expand the definition and scope of 'tourism promotion' to include expenditures to owners of farms, forests, and open lands for habitat management that promote wildlife tourism."

Funding would be diverted to authorize expenditures from the hotel-motel tax revenues to private owners of farms, forests, and open lands for habitat management.

Owners of tourist-based housing facilities, are very concerned about funding originally intended to help promote tourism for the State of Washington, being used for other expenses.

From the WSH&LA website:

"The lodging industry promoted passage of the original bill authorizing the Hotel-Motel Tax to help get more 'heads in beds.' Invested appropriately, the revenues do just that, and return more tax revenues for state and local tax coffers. Now cities and counties are using it for purposes that do not increase tourism, thus shrinking the lodging tax fund. And, there are so many jurisdictions tapping into lodging tax revenues to fund facilities that sufficient dollars are no longer available for marketing and promotion, which was the original purpose of the tax.

"Tourism is the state's fourth largest industry, but state funding to advertise, market and promote tourism is sadly lacking. Washington is in the bottom 20 percent of all states in funding its own promotion at the statewide level, and the funds generated locally should be invested solely for marketing.

"Cities and counties are tapping the lodging tax dollars for all types of things (such as a roof job in one community). Even more alarmingly, an audit in one county was unable to account for more than $80,000 in expenditures. Last legislative session one city wanted to use the dollars for law enforcement because they have tourists in their area. To some the lodging tax has become just another pot of money to tap when deficits, or pet projects, appear.

"Despite being an environmentally noteworthy bill, the funding to private land owners for habitat management needs to come from a source other than the lodging industry's Hotel-Motel Tax revenues."

Click here to read and follow the bill: http://www.leg.wa.gov/wsladm/billinfo1/dspBillSummary.cfm?billnumber=5005&year=2005

Click here to contact your state legislator to express your opinion about this bill.



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