WLRA October 2017 Legislative Update
Throughout the summer and fall 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.
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 four times this summer with two 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. That bill as well as 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, several legislators have been exploring the possibility of a statewide lodging tax to be the dedicated funding source for tourism. The WLRA currently opposes a statewide lodging tax and is in continued discussions assessing the political landscape surrounding it. Members of the hospitality and tourism industry testified in favor of the 1% tourism tax at the September Joint Revenue Committee meetings in Buffalo and the committee voted to have the bill drafted for consideration at their Dec meetings. The committee did not agree to draft a statewide lodging tax bill at the Sept meeting though we continue to hear discussions about it from leadership within the legislature and are continuing to be actively involved in discussions.
Airbnb - The Wyoming Dept. of Revenue has entered into an agreement with Airbnb and they began collecting all appropriate Wyoming taxes effective August 1, 2017. We are continuing to explore additional legislation from surrounding states related to Airbnb.
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. 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. Governor Mead drafted a letter of support for the program to the White House. We are continuing to work with our national affiliates the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA) and the National Restaurant Association (NRA) on this critical issue.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org for any questions or additional information.