Friday, March 14, 2008

Have Tax Money Will Spend

No matter how the tax on occupants of a county hotel will be spent, it is a bad idea to impose another tax. when will local elected officials get the underlying principle of government.

Limited government.

Of course, it all starts with the people. Few hold officials accountable for how they spend our tax dollars until something like the PA state 'payraise' comes along (2005). After a few years, things settle down and people forget all of the discussions across the state about how the state uses our tax money on perks, cost of living increases and the like.

The excuse given for two Fayette commissioners support for a hotel tax to be implemented - all but one or two counties in the state have authorized its use. And oh, Fayette will get some more resources to spur economic development.

None see that government with a little "g" should be limited to doing only that which the people can't do for themselves. And then that should be done with caution.

Local and regional groups can get together and raise their own monies for tourism projects. The government doesn't need to be involved in choosing non-profits or businesses to divvy up taxpayer monies to 'spur the economy.'

The economy will do quite well with less government, less government intrusion, and as lower taxation - not more.

In the case of this particular tax, officials recite how it won't be implemented on residents, but on "visitors."

But who collects the tax? Not a tax collector, as with property taxes, but the hotel business owner/s across the area. Where did government ever get the power or function to demand private business collect taxes for its domain?

It never has had that power or function. Every single time a business owner or someone other than a direct tax agent who is a government employee collects a tax on behalf of the 'state,' it is in direct conflict with the Constitution of the United States as envisioned by our Founding Fathers.

Why do you think the taxpayers revolted with the Boston tea party? It wasn't just about the idea of taxation without representation.

(Net the Truth Online)

Tourism Alliance supports tax on hotel rooms
By Amy Zalar, Herald-Standard

Zimmerlink proposes aloocations for hotel occupancy tax
By Amy Zalar, Herald-Standard

With a public meeting slated for Wednesday to discuss the hotel occupancy tax initiated by Fayette County Commissioners Vincent Zapotosky and Vincent A. Vicites, Commissioner Angela M. Zimmerlink has released a separate proposal suggesting how the proceeds of the tax should be allocated.

Some of the highlights of Zimmerlink's proposal include establishing a Fayette County Tourism Promotion Agency instead of using Laurel Highland Visitors Bureau for county promotion while still partnering with LHVB for a fee; establishing a tourism fund for nonprofit agencies and for-profit organizations; building a county visitor's center and setting up a county tourism Web site.

Enacting the tax is expected to bring in $750,000 annually.

Tentatively, the plan backed by Zapotosky and Vicites is to allocate 50 percent of the proceeds to the LHVB to regionally market the county; utilize 25 percent annually for five years to Penn State Fayette, the Eberly Campus, to establish a hospitality restaurant management program like the one at the main campus and to use 25 percent for a grant program for nonprofit tourism organizations for marketing and not for capital improvements.

The Fayette Chamber of Commerce, National Road Heritage Corridor and Nemacolin Woodlands Resort in Farmington supports the proposal backed by Zapotosky and Vicites.

The tax has not yet been enacted pending this month's commissioners meeting,

Last month, Zapotosky and Vicites voted to begin the process to start collecting the 3 percent tax on hotel rooms across the county, with Zimmerlink voting against the decision. The motion stipulated that the date for implementation and memorandum of understanding detailing how the proceeds would be spent would be acted upon at the monthly March meeting.

At the time the action was taken, Zimmerlink criticized her fellow commissioners because she said an informational meeting held in late January to discuss the issue violated the Sunshine Law.

Zapotosky and Vicites defended the meeting, saying it was merely to gain input. A public meeting has since been scheduled for 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at Magerko Auditorium at Penn State Fayette.

After learning of the upcoming meeting, Zimmerlink said unfortunately the feedback she has received since Feb. 28 when her fellow commissioners announced their plan to distribute the proceeds has been that any public meeting now is "after the fact and futile because they announced their plan and there is little likelihood they will change their minds."

She said in response to the comments she has heard that she has urged the public to attend the meeting if possible.

Zapotosky and Vicites each said Monday that they had not yet been sent copies of Zimmerlink's proposal, but are glad she is making one.

"The last time I heard, she was against (enacting the hotel tax)," Zapotosky said. "I'm glad she now has had a change of heart, and I am looking forward to hearing her ideas."

Zapotosky said he is looking forward to listening to all opinions and suggestions at Wednesday's meeting.

Zimmerlink previously said she could not attend because a Fayette County Mental Health/Mental Retardation board meeting is the same evening. Zapotosky noted MH/MR is an advisory board, and if Zimmerlink feels that is more important, it is up to her whether to attend. He added that if Zimmerlink doesn't discuss her plan, it is like she is an "anonymous commissioner."

"Nobody has cornered the market on ideas. This is a work in progress," Zapotosky said. "I'll be there and look forward to hearing the public."

Vicites said more dialog is good and the initial thoughts were that the first proposal was a work in progress.

"The input portion was always something we were going to seek," Vicites said.

Vicites added that he would use his years of experience as a commissioner with tourism agencies and venues to best decide how to spend the money. However, he said setting up the county's own tourism promotion agency would be a duplication of efforts because the LHVB promotes Fayette County.

"Leaders of today think regionally," Vicites said.

He added that millions of people visit the county each year.

"People visit destinations such as the Laurel Highlands or Pocono's, not counties," Vicites said.

Zimmerlink said in her proposal that other fourth-class counties have tourism agencies such as the counties of Beaver, Butler, Cambria, Cumberland, Schuylkill and Washington. Although Greene County is not a fourth-class county, it has a tourism agency as well.

Zimmerlink said the benefit is that Fayette controls 100 percent of the allocation and is eligible to receive additional direct state funds. She also suggests continuing the marketing relationship with the LHVB as a regional partner and increasing the current funding of $20,000.

Under the proposal supported by Zapotosky and Vicites, the $20,000 annual allocation from the general fund to the LHVB is no longer necessary.

Zimmerlink's plan lists Butler, Greene, Indiana, Lawrence, Mercer, Washington, Allegheny counties and the Oil City region, and greater Pittsburgh as regional partners, and the benefit would be that regional marketing experience would continue to attract tourist from areas such as Maryland, Ohio and Washington, D.C.

Zimmerlink's plan calls for establishing a Fayette County Tourism Fund for nonprofits organizations and for-profit tourism businesses for both capital improvements and marketing. She said nonprofit organizations care for historic sites and other amenities that are in need of restoration/preservation but lack money...

Fayette hearing set next week on hotel tax, revenue distribution
By Liz Zemba
Thursday, March 13, 2008

Fayette County commissioners will hold a public hearing next week on a proposed hotel occupancy tax.
Board Chairman Vincent Zapotosky Wednesday advised fellow commissioners Angela Zimmerlink and Vincent Vicites that the hearing will be held 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday on Penn State's Fayette campus.

Zapotosky and Vicites last month voted in favor of adopting the 3 percent tax, which is expected to generate $750,000 annually. They are to set a date for implementing the tax at their March 27 meeting.

Plans on how to distribute the tax revenues have not been finalized.

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