Support Needed Today on Room Tax Reform!
February 24, 2014
Dear WH&LA Lodging Member:

An Executive Session has been called for tomorrow (Tuesday, February 25) at 10:30 a.m. by the Assembly Committee on Tourism, which is not a public hearing, but is the session where committee members vote on bills announced in the hearing notice. The Assembly Room Tax Reform bill AB 385 (identical to Senate's SB 301) is listed as one of just two bills that will be voted upon tomorrow in this session.

If AB 385 does not pass out of committee tomorrow, there is only one other - much less likely - way to get it to the Assembly floor for a vote before the biennium session concludes in the coming weeks, making this is step five of the nine critical legislative steps needed to get the bill passed and signed into law.

The League of Municipalities is the primary organization opposing Room Tax Reform as it will increase accountability, involve local tourism appointees in the oversight of the revenue already required to go to tourism promotion and development, in many cases increase the amount of room tax revenue that must be spent on tourism promotion and development (rather than subsidize municipal budgets), and generally ensure that at least 70 percent of this revenue paid by your overnight guests will go to growing local tourism. They have sent an advisory to their members to contact committee members to actively oppose the bill, including in that advisory old information that for some reason did not include the sponsor's Amendment 2, which now makes it much more affordable for municipalities to comply.

We also just learned that two legislators may be attempting to introduce new amendments, not yet released, that could remove the primary components of the bill, leaving just one, or that will unfairly exempt a number of municipalities from the reform components.

What can we do? 
While we had been confident that there were sufficient votes to approve this bill in committee, municipalities are very political and can be very convincing right before votes. To avoid having legislators hearing loudly from municipalities, unfortunately armed with outdated information making their claims more dramatic, we need to have a strong message coming from the tourism industry to make sure the legislators planning to support the bill do not get swayed.

Please send a brief email TODAY to each of the following committee members asking for their support of AB 385 - but only with the two amendments by the bill sponsor -  in the Assembly Tourism Committee vote tomorrow. A few talking points you can either paste in or can refer to you while creating your own message, are listed below as well.

Talking Points 
  • Please vote in favor of AB 385 on Room Tax Reform only with the bill sponsor's amendments previously introduced, in the Assembly Tourism Committee Executive Session tomorrow.
  • Amendments 1 and 2 provided very reasonable compromises by the tourism industry to minimize the financial impact of the proposal and protect existing municipal plans.
  • Room Tax was created to provide funding to help grow local tourism, not to subsidize municipal budgets, and there are challenges around the state where the majority of this tax paid by our overnight guests, not residents, is being used for the wishes of municipal leaders.
  • AB 385 improves the accountability and local oversight of the use of Room Taxes paid by travelers, and ensures that at least 70% of the revenues will be used as originally intended - to grow local tourism.
  • Growing local tourism creates new local jobs, a healthier local economy, and also adds sales tax revenue at the state and county levels - everyone can win. 
We also suggest that you send a similar email to your own Assembly Representative, just replacing in the first bullet point the part reading " the Assembly Tourism Committee..." with "when the bill reaches the floor this session".  

Please take a few minutes to assist, as all of tourism can benefit by these changes.  Thank you! 

Contact: Trisha Pugal
Wisconsin Hotel & Lodging Association