Independent Voices |

Independent Voices

The $5 million the state is spending on promotion this year is enough.Other factors besides promotional activity could account for cyclical declines in tourism: flight curtailments, the vagaries of weather, natural disasters such as wildfires, changing enthusiasms of the travel set, and even the dollar’s value abroad. Examining my own gut-level feeling about increasing our share of the tourism pie, I am reminded of what Piglet said while Winnie the Pooh was looking for something to nourish Tigger: “He’s quite big enough anyhow.”

It takes money to make money. Tourism stimulation requires advertising, which requires money. Under TABOR, a sales tax increase for any purpose would require a vote of those being taxed. I would propose a modest 0.5 percent tax on those enterprises that directly benefit from tourism dollars, such as hotels, restaurants, destination resorts, lift tickets, etc. In this way, the businesses that would benefit from advertising would be the ones paying for the service. To pass a general sales tax increase would be almost impossible in this economy.

I think people already have the image of Colorado entrenched in their minds as a tourist destination. I can’t justify spending a lot of money on an all-out campaign like we used to do in the ’60s and ’70s. I would support a small tax to install a small central office that could mail out information packets to interested would-be visitors.

The state is looking at cutting services for the mentally ill, for the physically disabled, for child care, libraries, higher education and youth mentoring programs. These are just a few of the potential casualties in Colorado’s budget balancing war. A regressive sales tax to benefit tourism, when critical services to vulnerable populations are being cut, places a double burden on those populations. A better overall solution would be getting rid of the TABOR amendment, allowing the state to build surpluses in good times to carry it through bad times.

The previous state-funded program brought outside wealth to Colorado that the private sector was not in a position to create. Established tourist areas and private resorts that need it the least may benefit the most, and emerging enterprises will get the crumbs. However, a growing economy would stabilize jobs and create a tax base for programs now being cut (schools, libraries, health and welfare.) Structured wisely, it will have a powerful impact from Wray to Grand Junction. This is creative financing for a program that has proved itself in the past.

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