Revenue reduction proposal has Tourism Council concerned

Thu, 01/31/2019 - 5:00pm
Category: 

A proposal put forth by Gov. Gina Raimondo in her recent State of the State address that will once again shift monies away from the regional tourism councils has the members of the Block Island Tourism Board concerned about continued reduction in funding.

“Obviously, this raised a lot of red flags for us,” said Tourism Director Jessica Willi.

The monies that flow to the local tourism councils in the state come from taxes generated by hotels within each of the districts, and then divvied up by a complicated formula. The old language in the proposed legislation states: “With respect to the tax generated by hotels in districts… forty-five percent (45%) of the tax shall be given to the regional tourism district… wherein the hotel is located, twenty-five percent (25%) of the tax shall be given to the city or town where the hotel, which generated the tax, is physically located, five percent (5%) of the tax shall be given to the Greater Providence-Warwick Convention and Visitors Bureau… and twenty-five percent (25%) of the tax shall be given to the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation…”

The new language states: “With respect to the tax generated by hotels in districts… thirty-seven and one-half percent (37.5%) of the tax shall be given to the regional tourism district… wherein the hotel is located, twenty and eight-tenths percent (20.8 %) of the tax shall be given to the city or town wherein the hotel, which generated the tax, is physically located, four and two-tenths percent (4.2%) of the tax shall be given to the Greater Providence-Warwick Convention Center and Visitors Bureau… and sixteen and seven-tenths percent (16.7%) of the tax shall be transferred to General Revenue, twenty and eight-tenths percent (20.8 %) of the tax shall be given to the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation.

The change to the formula will result in a $52,228 reduction in revenue to the local Tourism Council.

The governor’s budget is a hypothetical at this point. It needs to be argued in front of the legislature’s finance committee and then a revised version will come out of the General Assembly.

Willi said she had met with the heads of the local tourism boards to see what can be done to lobby against the proposals.

“This has happened before, but never this drastically,” said Willi.

“We’re already down $30,000 or $40,000,” said member John Cullen, referencing a reduction in revenue that occurred a couple of years ago. “And now we’ll lose another $50,000. This is a third of our revenue in just a couple of years.”

“Tourism is up, and this her way of grabbing the money,” said member Dave Houseman of the governor.

The next Tourism Council meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 2019.