Arundel rejects hotel tax increase

May 21, 2008|By Ruma Kumar | Ruma Kumar,Sun Reporter

The Anne Arundel County Council rejected yesterday a proposal to raise the local hotel tax, bowing to pressure from local and state tourism officials and business owners who said the measure would drive away visitors strapped by the depressed economy.

"Raising taxes should absolutely be a last resort," said Councilman Josh Cohen, an Annapolis Democrat.

Council members said they found other ways to come up with the $6.3 million that would have been generated by increasing the tax from 7 percent to 10 percent, though they did not provide specifics.

The failed measure, along with Maryland's 6 percent sales tax, would have bolstered the school system's allocation - but would have made the county's hotel checkout fees the highest in the state and among the highest in the country.

Connie Del Signore, president and chief executive officer of the Annapolis and Anne Arundel County Conference and Visitors Bureau, called the council's decision "smart and brave."

"To make a cost of a visit more expensive would be devastating for this county. We would see our hotel occupancy decline, local residents would lose jobs and it would weaken the tax base here," said Del Signore.

The hotel tax proposal was the largest source of new revenue in County Executive John R. Leopold's $1.2 billion operating budget. The council is scheduled to vote on it and the $214 million capital budget May 29.

Since Leopold unveiled the proposal May 1, the owners of 450 tourism-related businesses launched a grass-roots lobbying campaign aimed at the council. They contacted the county's legislators and bombarded the council members with phone calls and e-mails, Del Signore said.

ruma.kumar@baltsun.com

Sun reporter Steven Stanek contributed to this article.

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