Bills increasing TN hotel tax rates are dead this year

By Chris Butler | Tennessee Watchdog

NASHVILLE — A series of bills in the Tennessee General Assembly that sought to increase taxes on hotel and motel patrons in various counties and cities — sponsored mostly by Republicans — appear dead for the year.

By law, these city and county officials can’t impose these kinds of taxes without legislative approval.

Local Government Subcommittee members this week killed bills that would have raised hotel and motel taxes in Wilson County, Columbia, Spring Hill, Lewis County and Fayetteville.

State Rep. Mark Pody, R-Lebanon

None of the bills’ sponsors were immediately available for comment.

State Rep. Mark Pody, R-Lebanon, told Tennessee Watchdog last month he didn’t believe enough of his colleagues would support his bill affecting Wilson County.

Pody, a Tea Party ally, said he only introduced the legislation because a two-thirds majority of Wilson County commissioners supported the idea.

“It’s my duty to support the local people and do whatever they want. I wasn’t trying to pass judgment as to whether I liked it or didn’t like it. I’m not jumping up and down with any tax increase. I even talked to the tea party people and told them I’m caught this way,” Pody said at the time.

As originally written, Pody’s legislation, when combined with the county’s other hotel and motel taxes, would have increased Mt. Juliet’s hotel taxes to one of the highest in the nation.

Wilson County commissioners wanted the extra revenue to build what they call the Wilson County Ag Expo Center at the county fairgrounds, described as a venue for trade shows and conventions.

As one might expect, a variety of hotel owners complained loudly to Tennessee Watchdog.

Meanwhile, Columbia hotel owner Doug Boehms, owner of the Richland Inn, made similar complaints about legislation affecting his business.

TAXING TRIP: Tennessee legislators appear to have killed a variety of bills that would have imposed higher hotel taxes throughout Tennessee.

A member of the Columbia City Council, one of six to vote unanimously to possibly raise hotel taxes, said in January he and other city officials still have no concrete plans for that money.

“That’s really all we’ve got so far to say at this point in terms of how this money is spent — just on stuff related to tourism,” councilman Mark King said.

Maury County, where Columbia is located, already charges a 5 percent hotel tax; the state sales tax on hotels is 9 percent.

If the additional tax went through, hotel guests would have paid a nearly 20 percent tax on their rooms.

Spring Hill, also in Maury County, would have also raised hotel taxes, also for tourism development, under failed legislation sponsored by State Rep. Sheila Butt, R- Columbia.

Fayetteville would have imposed hotel taxes for tourism development also, under legislation sponsored by state Rep. Pat Marsh, R-Shelbyville.

Meanwhile, legislation sponsored by Vance Dennis, R-Savannah, would have imposed taxes of 5 percent to 7 percent on hotels, the revenue from which would have gone to that county’s general fund.

Contact Christopher Butler at chris@tennesseewatchdog.org. or follow him and submit story ideas on his official Facebook page.

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