Guest View: Promoting tourism good for Douglas County, Lake Tahoe
Regarding the March 12 editorial, “Tax money goes to tourism as Douglas County faces budget crunch,” the lack of understanding of local history and economics on the part of the Tribune editorial staff is stunning. Additionally, the failure to comprehend tax structure shows a basic lack of knowledge about our economy and government.
The transient occupancy tax (TOT) is the money collected by lodging properties, primarily the casino/hotel properties in Douglas County, from their guests for the purpose of tourism promotion. These funds never were intended to fund local government, including parks and recreation.
In fact, Douglas County “siphoned off” a considerable portion of those funds to support various county activities other than tourism promotion before legislation to stop this behavior. The county refused to use TOT collections for tourism promotion as agreed when the tax was willingly supported by the lodging properties to promote tourism.
Additionally, the projects the county inappropriately funded were located primarily in the Carson Valley portion of the county – not for tourism at Lake Tahoe, where TOT is collected and to be spent.
At the heart of this issue is the recognition that we are a tourism-based economy at Tahoe; it is the engine that makes everything else possible. To improve our economy, we must grow tourism. Funds spent to improve tourism ultimately grow the economy and thereby provide the growth in tax revenues sought by government.
Reducing tourism promotion hurts tourism and, in turn, reduces county revenues. Politicians often do not recognize this relationship or are too shortsighted to act upon this economic fact.
Nevada Assembly Bill 616 recognized that Douglas County politicians could not be the sole controller of TOT collections. Nevada state legislators recognized the potential and actual misuse of the TOT was bad for both Douglas County and the state.
AB 616 was passed by the Nevada State Legislature to protect the citizens of Douglas County from misuse of TOT dollars. AB 616 did not take money from places where it should be spent. AB 616 ensured TOT is allocated and spent where the money was originally intended to go – to promote tourism.
The Tribune should review the record and set straight the erroneous and misleading comments regarding TOT and Douglas County’s well-being. Parks and other recreational facilities are vital to the overall quality of life in our community. The county must address these needs consistent with legal treatment of TOT.
For the Tahoe Daily Tribune to print an editorial so willfully ignorant of basic historical and economic facts is just plain reckless. Tourism promotion is good for the county and Lake Tahoe.
– Mike Bradford is a board member of the Tahoe Douglas Visitor Authority.