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Reject the Lodging Tax Grab – Casper Version

The Casper Area Convention and Visitors Bureau is calling for an increase in the lodging tax from 3 to 4 percent. Local governments and their offshoot organizations looking for more money favor higher tourism taxes because many voters seem to believe out-of-county, if not out-of-state, visitors bear the tax burden.

There is, however, no evidence to support this belief. In addition, whether county or state residents are paying the tab or not, the reality is that money is going to fund a government program instead of paying for food, clothing or other travel related services provided by the private sector.

Counties, cities and towns may impose a lodging tax of up to 4 percent on hotels, motels and the like if voters approve. At least 90 percent of the tax revenue must go to tourism promotion in the taxing jurisdiction. Natrona County collected $1.29 million in lodging tax revenue in 2013, up from $1.20 million in 2012.

But do only non Natrona County residents pay the tax?

In an April 2014 report produced for Wyoming Office of Tourism by Dean Runyan Associates, a traveller is defined someone travelling in Wyoming, whether a state, county or out-of-state resident. In fact, the data the report uses includes travel by Wyoming residents to other areas of Wyoming if a person stayed overnight or travel occurred in a stretch greater than 50 miles one way. The distance between the Hells Half Acre and Midwest, Wy is 81 miles.

So travel, according to Wyoming’s Office of Tourism involves everyone, including citizens of Natrona County. There is no evidence to show that only non-Natrona county residents pay the lodging tax.

One argument used to justify the tax increase is that other counties have already gone to 4 percent. While it is true that Laramie County raised the lodging tax to 4 percent, higher tax rates don’t necessarily translate into higher tax revenues. Laramie County collected $1.43 million in lodging tax revenue in 2013, up from $1.38 million in 2012, however in the City of Cheyenne itself, collections fell to $1.24 million, from 1.30 million in 2012 and $1.31 million in 2011.

Tourism industry tax cheerleaders seem to support government spending on tourism promotion and related corporate welfare programs because that spending subsidizes tourism marketing. But in fact, government is commandeering more than one million dollars to spend on a government program with little to no accountability for results. Instead, that money could be left in the pockets of the people who earned it to spend on goods and services they want, which would show up on the bottom line of companies providing those goods and services.

Tourism is a great industry that brings lots of money to the state. However, government has no place picking winners and losers in the tax dollar hand out game. No matter how you dice it, citizens in Natrona County will be better off without the lodging tax.

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Thursday, 21 September 2017
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