Vidalia tax proposal may not be bad tax

Published 12:03 am Sunday, April 6, 2014

Hello, my name is House Bill 425, and I’m a new tax.

Yes, yes, say it. It’s OK.

Welcome, HB 425. We are glad to have you.

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You see, not all new taxes are bad taxes, despite general perceptions.

HB 425, legislation awaiting action in the Louisiana Legislature, is — to almost all local residents — a good tax.

The bill would add a 6-percent fee to the hotel, motel or campground bill of those choosing to stay in a hotel within a determined district of Vidalia. That means it would, in most cases, affect only tourists and passers through.

The money would then be spent by the Concordia Parish Economic and Industrial Development District to promote tourism. Well spent efforts should bring more guests — who bring more money — to town.

That’s a good tax.

Vidalia and its legislators are wise to seek out the law now before additional hotels move into the city.

But leaders would also be wise to spend extra time dotting every i and crossing every t in the legislation.

Exactly how will the money be spent? How will it be collected? What’s the punishment if a hotel doesn’t pay, and who is checking that?

A similar heads on beds tax in Natchez has never lived up to its potential because, in part, such details were never ironed out. Money the city’s tourism office expected has never come.

Vidalia can learn from those mistakes now and benefit tomorrow.

A little extra effort on the front end means “tax” doesn’t have to be a dirty word.