As chairman of the House Tourism and Recreational Development Committee, state Rep. Jerry Stern said his "main concern is promoting Pennsylvania," not just one county.

Good for him.

But he shouldn't stand in the way of counties trying to market themselves as tourist destinations.

That's what the Blair County Republican is doing.

For two years now, York County's delegation, the county commissioners and local tourism officials have asked the Legislature for permission to raise hotel taxes here from 3 percent to 5 percent.

The enabling legislation wouldn't require York or the seven other counties included in the bill to hike their taxes -- it simply would give them the option.

Maybe some counties wouldn't think higher room prices are worth additional money to invest in tourism promotions and attractions in their areas. That would be up to them.

Officials in York County -- where tourism brings in $850 million per year and generates $83.2 million in state and local taxes -- certainly see the benefit.

According to the York County Convention and Visitors Bureau, increasing the hotel tax from 3 percent to 5 percent would increase the annual collection by about $700,000, to $2.2 million -- money that would be used to boost our local economy.

Unfortunately, the hotel tax bill has been languishing, in one form or another, in the House Tourism and Recreational Development Committee for at least two years because Stern refused to act on it.


Advertisement

Stern said he's been holding the bill because "it's more complex than members might realize ... we have such an assortment of laws in Pennsylvania that are convoluted at best and they include all 67 counties to some degree."

But why is this now an issue, given the Legislature had no problem allowing Lancaster and Adams counties to raise their hotel taxes?

Stern suggests a solution to this "complex" situation:

Since Pennsylvania is trying to find more money to increase state tourism, why doesn't the state just take some of York County's hotel tax money and use it on a state level?

Funny, the Legislature didn't ask the same of Lancaster and Adams counties.

Stern finally has scheduled a hearing on the bill for July 31, at which point we're probably going to hear more about his suggestion.

He's just trying to be fair, he said, and "it's nothing against York County."

Really?

Because it sounds like he's saying York County can raise its hotel taxes, but -- in its case -- only if the state gets a cut.

That doesn't sound very fair.

It sounds a bit like extortion.