Bill would allow Issaquah to continue marketing Salmon Days

February 26, 2013

By Ari Cetron

Funding for parts of Salmon Days could be in jeopardy if the state Legislature doesn’t pass a bill under consideration in the house and senate.

Since 2007, localities in the state have been able to use money from the lodging tax, taxes paid by hotel guests, to help fund special events or festivals and also nonprofit organizations that promote tourism. The provision that allows those uses expires June 30.

Localities would still be permitted to collect the taxes, but they would have more restrictions on the ways they could use the money. In Issaquah, that means funding for some parts of the Salmon Days festival and other activities would be in jeopardy.

The proposed bill would remove the expiration date, making the expanded uses permanent, among some other more technical changes.

“This extension would give the city more flexibility on who and what it funds,” Autumn Monahan, communications manager for the city of Issaquah, said wrote in an email. “Having more flexibility with our existing tools can help offset the effects of dwindling funds in other places.”

Last year, the tax generated $96,000 for Issaquah, she said.

The city this year budgeted the funds for uses like the chamber of commerce Visitors Center ($50,000), Salmon Days promotion ($10,000), Fenders on Front Street car show ($10,000) and Village Theatre ($10,000).

The City Council, in its 2013 legislative goals, noted that it strongly supports extending the extra uses.

Some groups, such as the Washington Lodging Association, oppose the extension. They say that sometimes the funding has been abused. They also point out there is no data to show whether or not using the hotel taxes actually has an economic impact, which is the stated goal of the legislation.

The house version of the bill (HB 1253) has garnered bipartisan support, including local Rep. Marcie Maxwell (D-41), who is a co-sponsor. Maxwell, who represents part of Issaquah, said she has seen firsthand how useful those funds have been in Renton, and she understands how important it is to Issaquah, as well.

“This is really an opportunity for our local community to market itself,” Maxwell said.

The bill had a public hearing in the House Finance Committee Jan. 28. It was scheduled for an executive session, where the committee will vote on the measure, Feb. 26.

The companion legislation in the senate (SB 5262) had public hearings in the Trade and Economic Development Committee and passed out of that committee Feb. 22. It’s now headed to the Senate Ways & Means Committee.

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