2017-03-16 / Editorial

Lodging tax cash should stay local

Tourism is a large — and growing — part of Jamestown’s economy that is vital to our island’s survival.

Therefore, it is important our elected leaders support tourism efforts that either keep dollars local or are used to bring dollars to town.

The town council did its part March 6 by supporting a resolution asking state lawmakers to transfer hotel revenue from Providence to Newport and Bristol counties. Now, it’s up to our state representatives to do theirs.

A law enacted last year countered 2015 legislation that cut Discover Newport’s share of the lodging tax from 47 to 42 percent. That money instead was expected to go toward the state, but legislators balked at the idea. In July, however, the 2015 law will be reinstated if nothing is done.

If a measure isn’t included in Gov. Gina Raimondo’s upcoming budget, Discover Newport will lose those 5 percentage points during this summer’s tourist season. That will cost the tourism bureau for Newport and Bristol counties about $300,000.

While the state may use some of that cash to support Jamestown by highlighting Beavertail or Fort Wetherill, the bulk likely will go toward promoting the casinos, Block Island, Roger Williams Park Zoo and various museums and historical sites throughout the state.

Discover Newport could do more for Jamestown’s tourism by highlighting our town’s assets and events. There also is a spillover effect from any tourists it draws to Newport as some are likely to venture over the bridge for a day trip and partake of our fine restaurants and shops.

Rep. Deb Ruggiero was noncommittal about supporting the move to keep the money local while Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed could not be reached for comment.

While both have leadership roles and, especially in Paiva Weed’s case, often must view issues from a statewide perspective and support the governor’s initiatives, they should get behind this effort to reinstate the money locally. Their loyalties and unwavering support should be to their home districts first and Raimondo’s agenda second.

Their political survival may not depend on it, but our island’s financial one just may.

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