A Grand County-initiated bill to expand the allowable uses of its primary tax on tourism passed the Utah Legislature with flying colors this session.
House Bill 247, sponsored by Moab’s State Rep. Carl Albrecht, R-Richfield, gained votes in its favor from all but one of the state’s 104 legislators. It allows small counties near a national park, like Grand, to allocate a portion of the tax it collects from lodging toward economic diversification.
The bill, H.B. 247, has a five-year sunset clause, a provision that the Utah Tourism Industry Association extracted in discussions over the bill. After Grand agreed and Albrecht modified the bill, it quickly sailed through and now goes to Governor Spencer Cox’s desk for a signature.
Once Albrecht’s bill received unanimous votes in the House and Senate, State Sen. Michael Kennedy, R-Alpine, brought forward a more ambitious bill that would have further expanded allowable uses of the lodging tax, known as the Transient Room Tax or TRT, for all counties.
Kennedy’s bill received no votes, in part because he introduced it late into the legislative session, on Feb. 24. If passed, it would have allowed any county — not just “gateway communities” like Grand County — that collects TRT to spend it on “mitigating the impacts of recreation, tourism, or conventions.”
Those mitigating uses would have included road repairs, solid waste management, emergency services, and criminal justice. In its current form, the law that governs the Transient Room Tax allows counties to spend part of the revenues on general government operations and the other part on “establishing and promoting” tourism and recreation, but not mitigating its impacts.
Grand had sought since last legislative session to expand the allowable uses of the Transient Room Tax but did not have as much success in previous sessions.
This year, after coming to the table with a proposal to allow tourism to fund economic diversification, Grand came out of negotiations with a bill agreeable to the Utah Tourism Industry Association, that legislators universally backed, and that the governor is expected to sign.
The bill, if signed, will take effect in July; Grand County Commission Administrator Chris Baird said that he expects to prepare an amendment to the current year’s budget to take advantage of the new spending allowances in the bill.