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Bed Tax Unnecessary and Unfair to Tourists

BY Ray Adams
by Ray Adams on 5/15/02.

I would like to reply to Bill Pullen (manager of Holiday Inn Oceanside and president of the Martin County Hotel and Motel Association) who asserts in his May 9 letter that bed taxes, if used properly, would increase tourism. In retrospect, the other two times this tax was proposed, the association (14
motels) killed it because the revenue would not benefit them. Now that its use is for free advertising, the association is behind it.

Here are some facts Mr. Pullen left out. Martin County is a secondary tourist stop, behind the Orlando amusements and the Florida Keys. Even these areas suffered an off-year during last summer's recession and post-9/11 travel decrease, but both are advertising heavily and expect normal summer revenues. Some advertising in these areas would be appropriate, but for hundreds of dollars, not thousands. The last Martin County promotion was a bumper sticker, "Enjoy Our Good Nature."

The Tourist Development Council is a new County Commission-directed body with funding from general revenues. The proposed tax would eliminate the need for general funding. So the bed tax is essentially a new source of county revenue. It starts at 2 percent and has a trigger to 6 percent in three years by - guess who? - the County Commission.

Our summer tourism is usually limited to work crews or fishermen who do not need advertising, or a new tax, to come here. The amount of jobs affected is dubious; we are supposed to be looking for more substantial industries for the area in order to avoid reliance on the volatile service sector.

While most Martin Countians enjoy unfettered access to reasonable restaurants and golf clubs in the summer, many of us have friends or relatives visit. This would directly affect our costs.

The most salient reason to vote against the tax referendum is that this is taxation without representation. Tourists, who would be most affected, cannot vote in the September balloting. This flies in the face of our founding fathers' principle establishing our land of liberty.

Mr. Pullen and the other large motel chains already have appropriate "800" reservation numbers and extensive advertising through promotions from tourism agents. If this network doesn't provide extra bookings, no amount ($600,000 to $1 million) of promotion, or even a welcome center, would justify the extra tax.

Ray Adams

Citizens for a Sound Economy

Palm City