The House voted 161-0 Monday for the bill to increase the county’s current 5 percent tax on motel stays in unincorporated Douglas County to 8 percent. The Senate is now considering the bill.
County officials estimate an increase to 8 percent will bring an additional $100,000 and allow them to hire someone to operate a welcome center, keep the courthouse history museum open five days a week and promote such events as the annual Hydrangea Festival.
District 67 State Rep. Micah Gravley, R-Douglasville, said he opted to sponsor the bill after no one in the Douglas County legislative delegation would agree to do so.
“I told [county commissioners] I would carry it so that we can get the museum in downtown Douglasville opened more than two days a week, and start to do some tourism promotion, some economic development promotion,” he said. “Start to bring in some of these attractions that are going to be job creators and really start to get on the ground in selling Douglas County as a tourist destination.”
One member of the delegation, District 66 State Rep. Kim Alexander, D-Douglasville, was one of two to vote against the bill in the House Intragovernmental Coordination Committee.
“Based on feedback received from my constituents in Douglas County and my own stance against raising taxes, I decided not to support the recent hotel-motel tax increase,” she said in a statement.
Gravley noted county commissioners — who voted unanimously in January for the increase — expressed their concern about the bill’s survival in the days leading up to Crossover Day when legislation typically must be approved in one house of the Legislature for the other to pass it before session’s end.
The current tax generated almost $168,000 from four hotels and motels in unincorporated Douglas County in 2012. Of that amount, more than $33,000 apiece went to the Douglas County Chamber of Commerce and the county Tourism and History Commission.
Though others have cited the benefits of revenue primarily coming from those living outside Douglas County, District, County Commissioner Kelly Robinson said he was more concerned about the value taxpayers will receive from the new revenue.
“We get up to about $100,000 for tourism — OK. But how does that really turn on an economic engine?” he said.
“It is beneficial to us but it will be over the long haul, once we start adding other projects, where it will be really material for us.”