CHEYENNE – The only tax proposal with the support of Gov. Mark Gordon moved one step closer to making it to his desk Tuesday evening.

By a 6-1 vote, members of the Wyoming Legislature's House Appropriations Committee advanced House Bill 134, which would add a 5% sales tax on all lodging services provided within the state.

A majority of those funds would go into a Wyoming Tourism Account for the state Office of Tourism to use to promote the industry in the state, while the remaining revenue would be distributed proportionately to counties and cities where it was collected.

Estimates show the tax proposal would add $7.4 million to the tourism account in its first year of implementation, and that annual figure would increase to $14.9 million in each of the next two years.

During the meeting, Department of Revenue Director Dan Noble told lawmakers his department has lost the two people involved in setting up the state's tax collection system, making it tougher for them to know exactly how much financial support they'll need to collect the added-on tax.

"We're going to look and try to get you the best estimate that we possibly can," Noble said. "We will not ask for a nickel more than we need."

The main point of discussion during the meeting centered on which lodging services would be included under the bill. As currently written, the legislation would exclude lodging offered at state and county campgrounds.

Before a vote on the bill, lawmakers approved a conceptual amendment, proposed by Rep. Andy Schwartz, D-Jackson, that would expand that exemption to include other county events offered on the campgrounds.

"My desire is to make this bill as simple as possible so that it passes," Schwartz said. "I only propose this amendment because I think it will cause less controversy than not having it."

Rep. Bob Nicholas, R-Cheyenne, then said he would have the legislative staff determine the best way to insert the amendment in the bill. The committee chairman suggested revisiting the bill after finalizing the amendment, but other lawmakers were ready to vote.

Rep. Albert Sommers, R-Pinedale, was the only committee member to vote against the measure, stating his community does not support a lodging tax.

While other revenue-generating proposals already failed during the interim session, this proposal is the only one the governor has offered support for in recent months. 

The bill will now go back to the House for a second vote, and it will just need a simple majority vote this time around. 

Tom Coulter is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s state government reporter. He can be reached at tcoulter@wyomingnews.com or 307-633-3124. Follow him on Twitter at @tomcoulter_.

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