New hotel-motel ‘fee’ was poorly handled, poorly designed | Jay Bookman

12
Apr

New hotel-motel ‘fee’ was poorly handled, poorly designed | Jay Bookman

In the next-to-last day of the 2015 Georgia General Assembly, legislative leaders trotted out a dramatically revised $900 million transportation-funding bill and basically rammed it through the House and Senate, brooking no objections and allowing no amendments.

Among the features of the revised House Bill 170 — features never vetted in a committee hearing, never discussed in a public setting — was a new $5-a-night “fee” on hotel and motel rooms in Georgia. The “fee” — not a new tax, mind you, but a “fee” — is expected to generate some $200 million a year for transportation. Using that revenue, legislative leaders were able to reduce the size of a fuel tax increase also contained in the bill.

Politically speaking, one of other attractions of the “fee” was that a lot of it would be collected from visitors to the state, who do not vote here and who presumably would have no option but to pay it. But the state’s tourism, convention and hotel-motel industries were justifiably upset, in no large part because they had been blindsided. That wasn’t by accident. HB 170 had been passed 11 days earlier in the state Senate, meaning that legislative leaders had ample time to negotiate its final form in public, through the conference-committee process. But they had no intention of doing so.

During a committee process, someone might have pointed out the inequity of attaching the same $5-per-night fee onto a $35 bill for a motel room in south Georgia and onto a $3,500-a-night suite at the Ritz Carlton in Buckhead. For the farm laborer or transient family needing a cheap place to stay in south Georgia, that’s a 14 percent increase in the cost of the room, but only a 0.14 percent increase in the cost of the Ritz suite. If you’re going to go that route to raise money for transportation, a tax as a percentage of the room rate would have been far more equitable.

via New hotel-motel ‘fee’ was poorly handled, poorly designed | Jay Bookman.

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