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Lawmakers consider statewide bed tax

By Dave Thompson

Bismarck, ND – Tourism industry officials say imposing a statewide two percent lodging tax will help the state take advantage of a rare opportunity -- the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial.

Money from that tax would go toward promotion of North Dakota during the bicentennial celebration. It was proposed by the tourism cluster of the New Economy Initiative -- and a bill to impose that tax was heard in the Senate Finance and Tax Committee.

"We count on the Tourism Division to be our marketing agent," David Borlaug of the North Dakota Lewis and Clark Commission told the Committee. "We must give the Tourism Division the firepower it needs to tell the rest of America, and indeed the world, that we are one of the last great places -- that we are part of the Lewis and Clark Trail."

Hotel owners don't like it, because they say tourism promotion should be a general fund expenditure. And they say the higher taxes could make Norh Dakota hotels less attractive for visitors and conventions.

Rep. Mark Dosch runs a hotel in Bismarck.

"When I go to Minneapolis, I don't go to downtown Minneapolis because I don't want to pay 13 percent," said Dosch. "I think that's ridiculous. I'm going to stay in Plymouth or some of the other areas where the tax isn't so high. And if we're not careful, what we're doing is telling people, 'Yeah, come spend the day in North Dakota, but don't spend the night.'"

The committee is still studying the proposal.