JACKSON HOLE, WYO – A bill to establish a statewide lodging tax passed the House today at third reading.
HB66 easily passed the floor of the House today at third reading 44-16. Local representatives Andy Schwartz, Michael Yin, and Jim Roscoe were all in favor of the measure.
Schwartz promised his constituents more flexibility on the definition of ‘promotion of travel and tourism’ to include tangential aspects like concerts or special events. It appears, so far, he was successful in adding an amendment that would allow promotional spending to include the “staging of events, educational materials, and other specific tourism related objectives, including those identified as likely to facilitate tourism or enhance the visitor experience.”
The expanded definition will help Teton County in particular use funds from the lodging tax to cover costs of concerts like Rendezvous Fest at the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.
The bill was also amended to direct 80% of the average annual revenue collected during the first five years be deposited each year in the Wyoming tourism account, which is hereby created. “No funds shall be expended from the account until appropriated by the legislature. Funds in the account shall be used for the operation of the Wyoming tourism board and the Wyoming office of tourism,” the bill read.
An attempt by Rep. Chuck Gray at second reading to exempt Wyoming residents from paying the tax failed.
State Republicans are calling the measure a fruition of promises to modernize the tax structure without increasing taxes on Wyoming families.
“With 85% of lodging tax collections paid for by out of state visitors and the support of industry, we can dedicate that money to funding the Wyoming Office of Tourism,” said Speaker Steve Harshman. “By creating a self-sustaining funding model for tourism, we can ensure a reliable source of revenue for the industry not paid for by hard-working Wyoming families.”
Representative Pat Sweeney added, “Having spent the majority of my career in the hotels and hospitality industry, I know the importance of a vibrant Office of Tourism. Wyoming residents are paying much higher lodging tax rates every time they travel outside Wyoming. We might as well be recouping these costs from the millions of tourists visiting Wyoming every year. This bill will level out the uncertainty we have seen in past years surrounding tourism budgets and support Wyoming’s second largest industry.