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Capitol reporter Katie Meyer covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.
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Hoteliers eye tighter rules on hotel tax revenue

Written by Mary Wilson, Former Capitol Bureau Chief | Aug 1, 2013 9:38 PM

If the only sure things are death and taxes, hoteliers want a bit more certainty that the tax they remit to counties helps promote their industry. A statewide tourism industry group is asking lawmakers to consider tightening the rules on how funds from county-level hotel room taxes are used.

Rob Fulton, head of the Pennsylvania Association of Travel and Tourism, told a House panel at a recent hearing that the original intent of county-level taxes on hotel room stays was to fund the promotion of local tourism. Some counties, he said, have been using the revenue for other purposes.

"Some taxes are used to pay bonds on convention centers," Fulton said. "In some cases, taxes might be used to underwrite the maintenance at a ball field. In some cases, the tax might be used to pave a stretch of road."

Lawmakers are considering changes to the patchwork of laws governing county hotel room levies. The state's hotel tax is six percent, but 14 different laws allow additional local room taxes in all but a couple of counties. As local rates vary, so do their prescribed uses.

Fulton cited difficulty in keeping up with what he called a piecemeal approach to the county-administered room taxes, but he acknowledges there's an argument the tax rates should be different from county to county. Tourism attractions vary. His members' primary concern, he said, is the use of the collected funding.

"If all the monies at the local level went back to tourism and marketing promotion, I think we'd be fine with that," Fulton said. "We wouldn't be as concerned about the rates."

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