Occupancy-tax legislation may be introduced


First Posted: 12/28/2008

A proposal to allow an occupancy tax to be collected in Surry County, which died in the state Legislature last spring, could be resurrected in an upcoming General Assembly session.
The proposal was derailed in Raleigh in May during a short session of state lawmakers, due to all members of the local legislative delegation not agreeing on the introduction of a bill to make it a reality. Rules of the short session required all General Assembly members who represent a certain area, such as Surry, to agree on proposed legislation affecting that locality.
Such a tax, which would be levied on guests staying at hotels, motels and other lodging establishments in the county, could generate $60,000 annually to be used for tourism promotion of Surry.
While it was strongly backed by Rep. Jim Harrell III of Elkin as an effort to boost tourism, Sen. Don East opted not to sign off on the measure, effectively derailing the proposals consideration this year.
However, when the Legislature reconvenes in late January for its next regular, long session, those rules requiring total support by the delegation will not be in effect.
Since the short session, Mount Airy attorney Sarah Stevens has been elected to the 90th District House of Representatives seat occupied by Harrell, and could submit a proposal for the county occupancy tax to be considered by the Legislature.
I have been approached about it, said Stevens, who at last report was weighing all the pros and cons of the matter before making a firm commitment.
Stevens was asked to introduce the occupancy-tax legislation by Paul Johnson, a member of the Surry County Board of Commissioners.
Surrys four municipalities, which all have occupancy taxes, were able to gain approval for theirs in the past due to bills being filed during long legislative sessions.
The county commissioners have approved charging those who stay in hotels, motels or bed and breakfast establishments outside the municipalities a 6-percent tax, subject to approval in the General Assembly. By law, such proceeds must be used to increase tourism in the locality where they are collected.
Stevens pledged to explore the matter fully before lending her support to the occupancy tax in the upcoming session. That will include consulting with East, she said.
East explained last May that he was opposed to incremental taxes here and there which add up to a big chunk taken out of consumers pockets, and questioned if the $60,000 would be sufficient to significantly impact county tourism.
The Pilot Mountain Republican also said he thought it was unfair to slap visitors to the county with an extra charge, after they already have invested money on gas and other expenses to come here in the first place.
Im sort of opposed to taxes, too, said Stevens, who during her campaign identified overtaxation as the No. 1 enemy of economic development in North Carolina.
However, she said the occupancy-tax proposal has some merit due to the fact it would not be levied on county residents, but those who come in from outside.
Her eventual position on the Surry occupancy tax will be decided after she researches all the issues involved, Stevens said.
Contact Tom Joyce at [email protected], or at 719-1924.Occupancy-tax legislation may be introduced
Tom Joyce
Staff Reporter

A proposal to allow an occupancy tax to be collected in Surry County, which died in the state Legislature last spring, could be resurrected in an upcoming General Assembly session.
The proposal was derailed in Raleigh in May during a short session of state lawmakers, due to all members of the local legislative delegation not agreeing on the introduction of a bill to make it a reality. Rules of the short session required all General Assembly members who represent a certain area, such as Surry, to agree on proposed legislation affecting that locality.
Such a tax, which would be levied on guests staying at hotels, motels and other lodging establishments in the county, could generate $60,000 annually to be used for tourism promotion of Surry.
While it was strongly backed by Rep. Jim Harrell III of Elkin as an effort to boost tourism, Sen. Don East opted not to sign off on the measure, effectively derailing the proposals consideration this year.
However, when the Legislature reconvenes in late January for its next regular, long session, those rules requiring total support by the delegation will not be in effect.
Since the short session, Mount Airy attorney Sarah Stevens has been elected to the 90th District House of Representatives seat occupied by Harrell, and could submit a proposal for the county occupancy tax to be considered by the Legislature.
I have been approached about it, said Stevens, who at last report was weighing all the pros and cons of the matter before making a firm commitment.
Stevens was asked to introduce the occupancy-tax legislation by Paul Johnson, a member of the Surry County Board of Commissioners.
Surrys four municipalities, which all have occupancy taxes, were able to gain approval for theirs in the past due to bills being filed during long legislative sessions.
The county commissioners have approved charging those who stay in hotels, motels or bed and breakfast establishments outside the municipalities a 6-percent tax, subject to approval in the General Assembly. By law, such proceeds must be used to increase tourism in the locality where they are collected.
Stevens pledged to explore the matter fully before lending her support to the occupancy tax in the upcoming session. That will include consulting with East, she said.
East explained last May that he was opposed to incremental taxes here and there which add up to a big chunk taken out of consumers pockets, and questioned if the $60,000 would be sufficient to significantly impact county tourism.
The Pilot Mountain Republican also said he thought it was unfair to slap visitors to the county with an extra charge, after they already have invested money on gas and other expenses to come here in the first place.
Im sort of opposed to taxes, too, said Stevens, who during her campaign identified overtaxation as the No. 1 enemy of economic development in North Carolina.
However, she said the occupancy-tax proposal has some merit due to the fact it would not be levied on county residents, but those who come in from outside.
Her eventual position on the Surry occupancy tax will be decided after she researches all the issues involved, Stevens said.
Contact Tom Joyce at [email protected], or at 719-1924.

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