SALEM - Oregon county and city elected officials testified in opposition to a preemption of local lodging tax authority at a hearing Thursday before the House Revenue Committee of the Oregon Legislature. The local officials argued for an alternative tax proposal to promote tourism.
The bill the local government officials oppose, HB2267, would create a new 1 percent lodging tax statewide to raise money to promote tourism while preventing future local lodging taxes unless those taxes also promote tourism. The bill would also create a tax-funded Oregon Tourism Commission as a semi-independent state agency with 13 of its 15 members to be drawn from the travel and lodging industries.
"We actively promote tourism in my county, but tourism has its costs and those costs are different in every city and county," said Lincoln County Commissioner Don Lindly, one of several local government officials who testified in opposition to HB2267. "The funding we receive from this important tax in Lincoln County helps support the extra burden tourism puts on public safety, human services and transportation."
"Across the state, from city to city, local lodging taxes are worked out in public meetings, with the input from local citizens, from local tourism interests and are tailored to meet local needs," said League of Oregon Cities Executive Director Ken Strobeck. "The local system is not broken. It does not need fixing. It does not require the state Legislature to analyze the deliberations of each elected mayor and city council and overrule them from the State Capitol."
City and county officials voiced support for a 1 percent lodging tax that does not preempt local decision making and leaves the current make-up of the Oregon Tourism Commission.
Local lodging taxes are in place in 80 of Oregon's 238 cities and in 14 of the state's 36 counties.
The House Revenue Committee took no action at an April 17 hearing, but a committee vote on HB2267 is expected in the weeks ahead.