Occupancy tax makes sense

First Posted: 4/1/2009

Surry Countys two representatives in the state House of Delegates, District 90 Rep. Sarah Stevens and District 92 Rep. Darrell McCormick, are primary sponsors of a bill that would impose a 6-percent occupancy tax on lodgings in unincorporated areas of the county.
In other words, the tax would be imposed in hotels, motels, and inns everywhere thats not part of a city or town.
Mount Airy, Dobson, Pilot Mountain and Elkin, all of the incorporated communities within the borders of Surry County, already have such a tax, and a portion of that money is used to fund the Tourism Partnership of Surry County. The partnership is a cooperative effort between the localities within Surry County aimed at attracting tourists to the area with a unified marketing effort.
The problem is, Surry County cant add money to the partnership because it doesnt have the occupancy tax, and the tax cant be imposed without General Assembly approval.
Stevens and McCormick, at the request of Surry County officials, have asked for the General Assembly action, and we applaud them for being responsive to those requests.
We have to wonder, however, about Sen. Don East, who represents Surry County in the state senate. East has, laudably, opposed virtually every tax increase that comes his way, and in most cases we would applaud that stand. Its generally good to have a representative who is steadfastly anti-tax.
In this case, however, it doesnt make sense. Imposing the tax will not cost the local residents his constituency a penny. On the contrary, it will generate revenue that helps bring additional visitors to the county.
Additional visitors means more money spent here, and that translates to more jobs, which gives local people the means to, in turn, spend even more locally.
Instituting this tax isnt going to open floodgates of tourists to the county, but it is a significant step toward harnessing the tourist potential for Surry County. To his credit, East said he will not actively oppose the measure, but the people he represents deserve more.
We hope he will join Rep. Stevens and Rep. McCormick in actively supporting this, and maybe even take the proactive step of introducing companion legislation in the state senate.

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