Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Sometimes legislators struggle with the intricacies of what a bill would do, the consequences of the bill, and whether the pros outweigh the cons. Not every bill and every vote is a clear-cut “yes” or “no” for any legislator. I’ve recently come across such a bill.
House Bill 1938, the Washington Tourism Marketing Act, would impose fees on tourism-related businesses like restaurants, hotels and retail businesses in order to fund tourism marketing for Washington state. With just this description, one might oppose increased costs on our small businesses. However, there is more to this story.
Washington is the only state in the country without a statewide tourism office – it was closed by the Legislature in 2011 due to budget cuts. Washington’s tourism budget in 2013-14 was $1.1 million (allocated to the Washington Tourism Alliance, a coalition of businesses in the tourism industry). Meanwhile, Oregon’s budget was $13.7 million and Idaho’s budget was $8 million for tourism in the same years. Please see the map below of state tourism budgets provided by the Washington Tourism Alliance.
The Washington Tourism Alliance has worked to put together a funding plan. The result of this planning is House Bill 1938. The fees in the legislation are intended to be collected only from businesses who will benefit from tourism marketing, and the funding would be dedicated to tourism marketing. For a complete review of the bill hearing and the testimony, click here.
The fee structure set up in the bill is based on businesses’ adjusted gross revenues, so smaller businesses would pay less than larger businesses. The fee would apply to food service, attractions and entertainment, retail, transportation and lodging. Annual fees would range from $25 to $3,500 depending on the type of business and size. Here’s the breakdown:
When the proposal came before the House Community Development, Housing and Tribal Affairs Committee on which I serve, and after much thought and consideration, I voted “no.” Despite the potential benefits in increased tourism to businesses, increasing costs for small businesses in our state could hurt their ability to operate and employ people. Then again, if implemented correctly, a tourism marketing program could generate net revenue for the state and our district.
I remain conflicted about this bill. While I want to support tourism which is crucial to our state and especially our district, I am hesitant to increase costs on some businesses that work within very tight margins. Some statewide associations, like the Washington Restaurant Association, support the bill but it is unclear to me how many restaurant owners statewide are following what is being proposed. I also wonder if this fee increase could affect the good work done by chambers in our state and district, who work to promote their area and businesses. Some of our local chambers, for example, have already been doing great work promoting their areas as travel destinations, primarily because state efforts have not been effective or fully funded.
I would like to know what you think. Please take this three-question survey to help me understand your perspective. This bill could come up for a vote by the full House of Representatives. I could choose to vote “no” again, or change my vote to “yes.” It’s also possible that the bill itself could be modified. I value your feedback, so please take the survey to share your thoughts, or contact my office directly.
I’d like to share with you some other ways I’m working to keep constituents informed about what is happening in Olympia. Check out:
- A recent radio interview on KOHO radio Feb. 20 with myself, Sen. Evans Parlette and Rep. Condotta.
- A Quad City Herald column about my school infrastructure recovery bill and other efforts after the Carlton Complex Fire.
- A video update in which I discuss committee cutoff, an update on my school recovery and natural disaster recovery fund proposals, and students from the 12th District who spent time in Olympia serving as pages.
As always, please don’t hesitate to contact my office anytime with your questions, comments and concerns. It’s an honor to serve you.
122G Legislative Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7832 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000