Mayor West: Hotel tax not buried yet

Published 12:05 am Wednesday, April 16, 2008

NATCHEZ — The occupancy tax bill is not dead yet, and the situation will be monitored over the next few days.

The $2 room tax did not make it out of the Senate finance subcommittee Monday after passing the local and private committee.

Sen. Bob Dearing said the committee was concerned that the bill exceeded the normal 2 percent rate found on most hotel and motel taxes in the state.

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Mayor Phillip West said he’s been in contact with legislators in Jackson trying to get the bill resurrected.

The bill still has a chance for consideration only if the legislative session is extended.

The deadline for making the extension decision is still a few days away.

Until then, West said he is doing what he can to get the bill brought up.

“I’ve spoken this morning with our lobbyist and (attorney) Walter Brown about this particular matter,” West said.

The chances of bill passage are slim though, West said.

The bill passed the House of Representative 120-0 last week after receiving some opposition in the local and private committee.

The opposition came from a supposed lobbyist who reportedly said he was representing the Isle of Capri.

This lobbyist, Stan Flint, was reportedly telling the committee that the bill was being widely opposed by Natchez citizens.

Jack Sours, general manager for the Isle of Capri, denied that the hotel and casino contracted a lobbyist to oppose the bill.

The intent of the $2 occupancy tax was to increase revenue to better promote Natchez tourism.

If the bill passes, a marketing committee would handle the extra money to be spent on tourism promotion.

The bill was unanimously approved by the board of alderman Feb. 26, after dropping an increased restaurant tax from the proposal.

It began as only a $1 occupancy tax but after the restaurant tax was removed from the proposal, the hotel tax was upped to compensate for that loss.