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WLRA September 2017 Legislative Update

 

Throughout the summer months there has been a lot of proposed activity at both the state and federal level with policy decisions that could significantly impact Wyoming’s hospitality and tourism industry.

 

State

The Joint Revenue Committee has been tasked with coming up three separate proposals to help offset the $400 million shortfall for education funding in Wyoming.  The committee intends to draft plans that generate $100 million, $200 million and $300 million between now and the start of the 2018 Budget Session.

The committee met three times this summer with three sets of meetings to go before completing their interim work.  Various tax proposals have been discussed.  A bill to increase liquor fee’s and beer taxes will be considered at their December meeting.  Fortunately the discussion surrounding a gross receipts tax has finally subsided some.  While the issue will not be considered further for this coming session, the committee has requested that the secretary of state compile information relating to businesses gross receipts so that the state has additional data to consider at a later time. The majority of tax proposals that the Joint Revenue Committee will consider will be at their December 4,5 meetings in Cheyenne.

Alternate Funding for the Wyoming Office of Tourism

As an industry, the Wyoming Lodging and Restaurant Association, the Wyoming Travel Industry Coalition and the Wyoming Tourism Board have been meeting for the past year researching how all other states fund their tourism office.  Our boards and the industry we have spoken with to date feel strongly that the states second largest industry should be fully funded with a dedicated funding source aimed at growing the industry and the tax base that it produces rather than to hope for the best trying to minimize continued cuts during difficult financial times. After a joint retreat held this past spring the boards agreed to explore a proposal of a 1% tax on the leisure and hospitality sector of the NAICS codes (the 7000 series) to provide a dedicated funding source for the Wyoming Office of Tourism.  Members of the WLRA, Wyoming Office of Tourism and the Wyoming Travel Industry Coalition have been traveling the state all summer meeting with industry leaders to gain feedback and direction with this proposal.  Simultaneously, the Joint Revenue Committee and numerous legislators have been exploring the possibility of a statewide lodging tax to be the dedicated funding source for tourism.  The WLRA currently opposes this proposal and is in continued discussions assessing the political landscape surrounding it.  Both of these proposals will be discussed on Sept 12 in Buffalo at the next Joint Revenue Committee meeting.  Be sure to watch the WRLA e-news for updates regarding tourism funding.

Airbnb- The Wyoming Dept. of Revenue has entered into an agreement that Airbnb begin collect all appropriate Wyoming taxes effective August 1, 2017.  We are continuing to explore additional legislation from surrounding states related to Airbnb.

 

Federal

J-1 Visa’s -The WLRA has learned from Multiple sources that senior White House staff could possibly cut the J-1 Summer Work Travel program by as much as 90%.  This would happen as part of President Trumps “Buy American, Hire American” (BAHA) Executive Order implementation. We are hearing that adoption of this plan could happen as early as September. This would have a devastating effect on Wyoming’s hospitality and tourism industry since finding adequate numbers of qualified workers is a top challenge for Wyoming employers.  The WLRA has met with Senator Enzi and reached out to both Senator Barrasso and Congressman Cheney to express our concern. As well we have spoken with Governor Mead’s office and requested that he contact the White House to express concerns over the impact this could have on Wyoming’s second largest industry.

Government Shutdown- The continued dialog in the news about a potential government shutdown is extremely concerning for Wyoming’s hospitality and tourism industry as Wyoming’s national parks have already had some cancellations or rescheduled trips caused by the uncertainty.  The WLRA reached out to Senator Enzi, Senator Barrasso and Congressman Cheney urging an immediate cessation to this harmful messaging this summer and we continue to monitor the situation closely. 

Please continue to monitor the WLRA e-newsletter for current updates to these and any other policy discussions or actions taken related to hospitality and tourism.  Please contact Chris Brown at chris@wlra.org for any questions or additional information.  

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