The York County hotel tax rate has remained stagnant at 3 percent for 20 years, and a state Senate vote Tuesday ensured it will stay that way a little longer.
The Senate on Tuesday added amendments to House Bill 1177, which also authorizes a cigarette tax to fund Philadelphia schools in addition to raising the local hotel tax to 5 percent.
When the Senate voted eight days into the new fiscal year, the bill was amended to include a five-year sunset on the Philadelphia cigarette tax and adds language to prevent the tax revenue from being used for the issuance or repayment of bonds. It also authorizes a hotel tax in Butler, Franklin and Schuylkill counties and in Bensalem Township, Bucks County, and adds provisions for additional City Revitalization and Improvement Zones (CRIZ).
Next step: Those changes mean the bill will go back to the Pennsylvania House, which will reconvene 1 p.m. Monday, Aug. 4, for consideration, said Rep. Kevin Schreiber, D-York City.
"It's possible York County could see benefits from this in early August. I'm hopeful the House can pass this next month," he said.
If approved, the legislation enables the county to raise the hotel tax. County commissioners would have to approve it for the higher tax to be implemented in York County.
The higher hotel tax would be paid by those who rent rooms in the county and is expected to generate about $2.5 million a year, according to Anne Druck, president of the York County Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Revenue from the tax would be spent on the local tourism industry, including funds designated for the York Expo Center, Rail Trail and other county attractions.
Each month that York County hasn't been allowed to raise its hotel tax has meant lost revenue in the community, Druck said.
Commissioners react: But it might not be a unanimous victory in York County.
Commissioner Chris Reilly on Wednesday said he is "inclined to vote against the hotel tax as a matter of protest."
"If they catch me on a bad day, I just might do that," he said.
Reilly said "it's ridiculous" that it's taking so long to get the state bill passed and praised Sen. Scott Wagner, R-Spring Garden Township, for adding the hotel tax to the bill.
"Scott Wagner was able to accomplish in a couple months what guys couldn't accomplish in 20 years," he said.
All of York's neighboring counties have a 5 percent hotel tax rate.
"York County is at a disadvantage economically," Reilly said.
But even after that statement, he said he would still consider not voting for the hotel tax increase.
However, Commissioner Doug Hoke and President Commissioner Steve Chronister said they would vote yes for the 5 percent rate.
"It's a small tax, but it's needed. York County is in the heart of tourism, and I wanted the tax five years ago," Chronister said. "It's a no-brainer for me. My vote is absolutely yes."
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