Chambers of commerce around the state, including the one here in Sunnyside, are scrambling with worry about proposed legislation in Olympia that would give governments some flexibility in how hotel/motel tax money is spent.
The hotel/motel lobby currently has a good thing going, as all hospitality tax money their guests pay has to be set aside in a fund and used only to advertise events that put "heads in beds." You guessed it, using tax money to bring back more hotel/motel customers.
I realize the local economy in general benefits when people visit from out of town, so I'm not opposed to the current use of hotel/motel tax money.
At the same time, I do think local governments should have some flexibility in how they use those funds. After all, the guests also use local roads and call on local police and emergency services.
The legislation that's been proposed in this session would allow local governments, like Sunnyside, to use some of the hotel/motel tax money during a financial emergency.
The tourism industry is worried that once Pandora's Box is opened it will never get that money back.
That's not necessarily so, in my opinion, as long as the legislation is well written without loopholes.
That is, setting specific limitations on how and when hotel/motel money can be used other than for tourism. The legislation should define what a financial or fiscal emergency is and should make provisions for the money to be paid back to the tourism fund, much like the interfund loans cities already use.
I think there's another good thing here about offering limited flexibility with the hotel/motel money. It may require chambers of commerce to give a better accounting of how they spend the money they're allotted from the fund.
It would give a bit more competition for the money and - as any motel owner worth his salt will tell you - competition is a good thing.