Friday, December 7, 2012

WDT: Time For The Periodic Story About Spending Bed Tax $$$

    Hotel owners got a bed tax because of the notion its up to government to promote their business and fill their rooms.
     Every once and a while the media goes to them and creates a narrative about how the government should spend the money as if its a separate and distinct pot of cash the tourism industry controls.
    It's not.
     The 3% occupancy tax was put in place during an era when government was growing and lawmakers were grasping at revenue streams. That's how we got school districts taxing cell phone bills and cities taxing cable bills.
     Government can spend money on tourism promotion whether or not there is a bed tax, and the fact the occupancy tax was written up to divide the money certain ways or attempt to proscribe its spending was more a function of providing the political cover at the time for its passage.
     Kind of like creating a lottery and then assuaging anxiety over its morality by saying its for the children. 
      If the hospitality industry wants to lobby for bigger appropriations for promotion of their product, they are welcome to do so. I will grant you having the bed tax makes that easier, because you can argue that the public money being spent is not coming from the "taxpayers".   That's a slippery slope as I have sat at many a meeting where public funds are expended for museums, zoos and concert promotions all on the premise that it's not "taxpayers" money.
      In many ways a "tourism" fund is in effect 'walking around money' for local boards when people come to them asking for some money. Doesn't make it bad, it just means that's what it is. 
Watertown Daily Times | Hotel operators want to see more bed tax revenue spent on promotion


Anonymous said...

I thought the bed tax was so the chamber could pay big bucks to some useless well connected backslapping figurehead that couldn't do well in their own business?

I disagree with your assessment. Never has a tax been so specific in how the money would be spent. Schools and lottery are a different story because the school gets way more funding than all the lottery revenues combined and then some.

Anonymous said...

So instead of having an advisory board of professionals in that industry we should leave it to the whim of electeds for things such as the aviary that nobody on the Zoo board wanted?

Jeff Graham said...

That's right 1223...The electeds have the power to confiscate your money through taxation and have the responsibility to appropriate it in the public interest.
If the "professionals" unwilling to stand for election don't like it, they can run or find a surrogate to run.
As for the decisions of the much held-in-contempt electeds....Most of us in office routinely seek the input and advice of a range of people, as we have done with the zoo and other community projects.

Anonymous said...

The Alex Bay situation is funny First you have Sampie Sutton former Supervisor coveting the tax money and now a Thompson, remember the Thompson would not sell Alex Bay school a small chunk of land for an expansion of the school, instead they sold whole chunk. Seems odd afterward when he was on the school board and was trying to save money for the school.

Anonymous said...

You and your slippery slope argument, a tired old cudgel. The WDT described the bed tax far more restrictively than for use on items like an aviary upgrade. How many tourists does that little gem pull in? Too bad better-qualified people are too busy to take your jobs.

Anonymous said...

The aviary decision was driven because it was a monument to a dead guy and supporting such a monument might get you out of a ticket some day.

The polls do have the power to tax and they specified this tax shall be spent on tourist promotion. "Promotion" is the key word. I suspect a court would rule that pertains to advertising and such. Not building a road that a tourist might use or building an aviary that a tourist might use.

A close look would show that the local polls do not have the power to tax except within the confines of what the Albany polls dictate.