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Tourism Leaders Challenge Change to Bed Tax

Christopher Collier
JoLynn Lokey spoke before a group of tourism industry leaders Jan. 28

Leaders in Tampa Bay's tourism industry said they're concerned about a legislative proposal to designate part of the local bed tax for police services. 

The bed tax, formally known as the Tourist Development Tax, is $.05 on the dollar in most area counties – $.06 per dollar in Pinellas County --  for hotel rooms, timeshares and short-term rentals.

The proposal from Rep. Brad Drakes, R-DeFuniak Springs, would set aside 10 percent of the bed tax for police services. 

Visit Tampa Bay Vice President for Administration JoLynn Lokey said committing a specific amount of money for police now could siphon more money from tourism revenue in the future. Most of the money now goes toward projects such as beach restoration or tourism campaigns.

"Tourism affects everybody," Lokey said last week. "All our utilities, parks and (recreation). If we were to take money out for law enforcement, the slippery slope would start to happen."

In the past year, the bed tax in Pinellas County raised about $39 million. In Hillsborough, roughly $23 million was raised. 

So far, House Bill 1203 is being heard by the House Finance and Tax Committee. A Senate companion bill, filed by state Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Destin, is waiting to be heard by a committee.