Traverse City Record-Eagle

Opinion

March 29, 2014

Another View: Local tax a local windfall

Franklin County wants a bed tax, and the state had better be ready to provide one or explain why it won’t.

Neighboring Clinton and Essex counties have been thriving with a hotel-room occupancy tax. Legislatures of each of those counties would be hard-pressed to find ways to close budget gaps if suddenly confronted with the loss of those revenues.

Franklin County has finally seen the extraordinary benefits of imposing such a tax, and only state approval stands in the way. Mayor Paul Maroun of Tupper Lake, who is also a county legislator and works for state Sen. Betty Little, voted against the proposal and told colleagues that Gov. Andrew Cuomo is against any new taxes, including this one, presumably.

What is Maroun thinking? His rationale for his curious vote was that hoteliers with whom he’s spoken are against the tax. Of course they are: What businessperson is in favor of paying a new tax?

But that doesn’t mean it would be bad for the county. On the contrary, it would be a bonanza. Estimates are that it would take in between $300,000 and $400,000 in new revenue — revenue that would come from someone other than local residents and local taxpayers. It would come from people staying at local hotels.

The tax would be 5 percent added on to the hotel bill for an overnight stay. If the hotel charge were between $100 and $200, that would mean an additional charge of $5 to $10. There is no way to make a convincing argument that that would drive business away.

Even if it did, to where would it drive the business? To Clinton or Essex counties, which already have an occupancy tax? Hardly.

In fact, Franklin County is one of the few counties in the whole state without a bed tax. Residents of the county are suffering an inordinate hardship by not having the means to raise this amount of money without local cost. That $300,000 to $400,000 is being taken from local taxpayers - most notably, the payers of property tax, who are already paying far too big a share. And if Clinton and Essex counties are any indication, actual revenues from this tax usually exceed estimates.

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