Hotel tax bill heads to Pa. Senate floor for vote
A bill that would allow York County commissioners, and other county commissioners in the state, to increase a tax charged on renting hotel rooms cleared a Pennsylvania Senate committee on Wednesday and now heads to the floor for a vote.
The long-discussed proposal, House Bill 794, would allow commissioners to increase the hotel tax from 3 percent to 5 percent, bringing York County on par with the rate levied on hotel rooms in surrounding counties.
"I'm definitely grinning like a mule eating briars," said Anne Druck, president of the York County Convention & Visitors Bureau. "But the real celebration will be when the governor signs it into law."
State Rep. Keith Gillespie, R-Hellam Township, introduced the bill earlier this year. The House approved the measure by a 136 to 57 vote in June.
The bill: If the bill is signed into law and county commissioners approve the tax increase to the full 5 percent rate, county tourism officials project a revenue increase of more than $1 million, bringing the total to $3.1 million yearly.
About $1 million of that would be used for a tourism grant fund, which would be distributed annually to several organizations. Another portion would go to one of the largest tourist destinations, the York Expo Center.
The remaining money would be used to promote tourism efforts.
The bill would allow 54 counties in the state, including York, to raise their hotel room tax, Druck said.
York's commissioners — Steve Chronister, Doug Hoke and Chris Reilly — previously said they are in support of increasing the hotel tax, if they are given the option.
Support: The York County delegation to the House approved the measure, and Druck said that, along with backing from York's senators, has been a great help in moving the bill forward.
"It's been our goal to have this wrapped up this year," she said.
The bill received unanimous approval in the Senate Community, Economic and Recreational Development Committee on Wednesday. Gillespie said he hopes that's a sign of things to come on the Senate floor.
"This was a big one getting it out of committee," he said. "It (the bill) needs to be done to correct the disparity" of surrounding counties having a higher tax that puts York's tourism bureau at a disadvantage.
Gillespie said he's cautiously optimistic the bill will be on Gov. Tom Wolf's desk in the coming months.
But, if the bill is approved by the Senate, it would first be sent to the House for a second vote. The Senate is expected to take up the measure in November.
A previous version of the proposal nearly passed last year but died as the session came to a close.
"I'm glad that we are finally getting some movement," said Sen. Scott Wagner, R-Spring Garden Township, who noted the bill is a common-sense measure that would help York and other counties.
— Reach Greg Gross at email@example.com.