Senator pushing back against hotel tax bill

Senator pushing back against hotel tax bill

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - It was a controversial bill intended for transportation, but at the last minute, Georgia lawmakers added a hotel tax that went into effect last July.

The $5 per room, per night tax can really put the sting on visitors to places like Savannah. Now, State Senator Josh McKoon wants to put that tax to bed.

Senator McKoon says if this bill can make it through all the necessary channels, he is confident that Georgia legislatures will pass this bill.

"It's frankly had a devastating impact on hospitality and tourism around the state," said Sen. McKoon.

Columbus Sen. Mckoon is talking about the Transportation Funding Act of 2015 that added a $5 per room per night tax for hotel guests.

I'm just trying to alleviate that problem by rolling that part of the bill back, obviously it keeps the gas tax in place and the other measures that were taken," said Sen. McKoon.

He says he is only trying to get rid of the hotel tax saying they're already taxed at the local level.

"I think the tax is definitely needed and is put to good use, but has it affected travel and the way that guest book rooms, absolutely," said Ronnie Jones, East Bay Inn. "It makes it that much harder for our convention and visitor bureaus to attract meetings because they're stuck with a five dollar per night tax around their necks. I understand that taxes are necessary to keep infrastructure going and I, like every business owner, am concerned about Savannah and the tourism in the area."

Jones showed WTOC a receipt. The guest was charged a four percent state sales tax, three percent local sales tax, a local bed tax of six percent as well as the five dollar state transportation tax.

"So if you're a budget minded individual, I think it does affect travel," said Jones.

Sen. McKoon says House Bill 252 just makes sense.

"So my hope with this bill is that we can give our hoteliers and our tourism and hospitality industry a little bit of a relief," said Sen. McKoon.

McKoon says the proposed bill has been assigned to the Senate Finance committee. From there they have to have a hearing and then vote to recommend the bill to pass.

If it passes it will move to the Senate floor and he hopes it will pass in the senate.

If it does it will head back to the house for approval and then ultimately be left up to Governor Nathan Deal to sign the bill into law.

Sen. McKoon says he's taken the common sense approach that should work.

"Because I believe if we're given the opportunity to vote on it, we will repeal this tax," said Sen. McKoon.

Sen. McKoon is also focusing on a bill to allow religious freedom in the state. Some call it controversial because it might allow private businesses to pick and choose who they want to serve based on their religion.

We'll continue to watch proposed laws and bring them to you as they go through the legislative session.

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