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Published on Friday, January 20, 2017

Bill to promote tourism would divert funds from transportation account

HB 1123 establishes a Tourism Marketing Authority for the purpose of promoting tourism in Washington. Historically, the Washington State Department of Commerce ran a tourism office, but it was never funded adequately. In 2011, the State ceased funding any sort of tourism offices in Washington. Today we are the only state in the nation without a dedicated state-funded tourism office.

Tourism is the fourth largest economic sector in the State. Many of our cities, large and small, benefit immensely from tourism.

HB 1123 takes 0.1 percent of general sales taxes collected on retails sales of lodging, restaurants and rental cars for its Statewide Tourism Marketing Account. Deposits will be limited to $5 million per biennium and are subject to private matching funds prior to expenditure.

Cities support finding a dedicated source to promote tourism but we have concerns with the source of funding in this bill as currently written. The sales tax on rental cars is deposited into the multi-modal account which funds a number of transportation related projects and programs that cities benefit from including grants for bicycle and pedestrian projects, safe routes to schools and support for transit. We are working with the sponsors of this legislation to find a funding source for a much-needed Tourism Authority that does not divert funds away from important local transportation needs.

HB 1123 is scheduled for public hearing on January 25 in the House Community Development, Housing and Tribal Affairs Committee.