Republican lawmaker pushes higher hotel tax in TN’s Wilson County

By Chris Butler | Tennessee Watchdog

NASHVILLE — Hotel users in Wilson County already pay one of the highest hotel/motel taxes in the nation, but state Rep. Mark Pody, R-Lebanon, is pushing a proposal to raise those taxes higher.

As Tennessee Watchdog previously reported, county commissioners want these tax revenues to pay for a new convention center, but they cannot raises taxes on hotels without legislative approval.

Even though he is acting at county commissioners’ request, why is Pody, an ally of the tea party, doing this?

State Rep. Mark Pody, R-Lebanon

“I said if something came to me from local people, and it had two-thirds majority in the city council or county commission that I would carry it down at the Capitol,” Pody told Tennessee Watchdog.

“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.”

However, Pody said he doesn’t believe the proposed 3 percent tax hike could receive support from fellow legislators. Users of Mt. Juliet hotels, for example, would pay a tax of 22.5 percent

“I told county commissioners I have no support up here, and I don’t think there’s anybody that wants to be doing something like that up here at all,” Pody said.

“So they went back and asked ‘Could we do a much smaller tax increase? Could we do a different kind of program?’ At this point they are possibly looking at something closer to 1 percent. I think the motel and hotel owners are more comfortable and even in agreement with this.”

All the hotel owners who previously spoke with Tennessee Watchdog on this issue, as well as County Mayor Randall Hutto, didn’t return our requests for comment.

Will tea partiers approve of a proposal to raise taxes on hotel and motel owners in Wilson County?

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

“It would make the tax one of the highest in the nation, which, to me, makes no sense, and would quell growth,” Commissioner Clint Thomas said in November, one of the few who opposes the increase.

“There are other areas like this that have similar venues. It’s not uncommon to find that some of these venues run a negative operation cost,” Thomas said.

Thomas also worried that people using the center would come from nearby localities and won’t use hotels or motels in the area.

Sanket Patel, who owns the Quality Inn in Lebanon, told Tennessee Watchdog last month that commissioners simply lack good sense for business.

In response, Hutto said commissioners are only trying to raise hotel and motel taxes because state officials grant them that authority.

Pody said he isn’t someone who goes back on his word to local officials, even if it means pushing for something with which he disagrees.

“I’m not for tax increases, period, but I am going to do what I promised to do. I’m not going to change my statements just because it’s convenient for me,” Pody said.

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

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Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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