Biloxi mayor vetoes "11th hour" hotel tax proposal - - The News for South Mississippi

Biloxi mayor vetoes "11th hour" hotel tax proposal


By Steve Phillips – bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) -  Biloxi Mayor A.J. Holloway has vetoed a proposed hotel tax hike. That action comes after the Biloxi City Council on Wednesday approved the controversial tax proposal in a specially called meeting.

If council members override the veto, and the tax measure is approved by the legislature, the city would be allowed to add a hotel tax of up to five dollars per room, per night.

Mayor Holloway reiterated his concerns about the hotel tax in Thursday's veto message to the city council.

He told council members he has established a record of acting in "deliberate fashion" after considering all sides of the issue.

"I cannot in good conscience approve a tax measure conceived in the 11th hour that threatens to impose an unspecified tax for an unspecified amount of time and for an unspecified use," wrote Mayor Holloway.

As the mayor used his "veto pen," tourism leaders continued to speak out against the tax 

At its regular meeting Thursday morning, the Mississippi Coliseum Commission heard a report that meeting planners and visitors are raving about the newly expanded convention center. Leaders of the tourism industry say those same meeting planners could easily take their business elsewhere if Biloxi's hotel tax increases.

"In this economy there's tremendous pressure on them for return on investment and bottom line for the meetings and events that they sponsor," said Richard Forester, Tourism Director for Harrison County. "And if they have an additional expense, they're going to compare that with some other destination that doesn't have that expense and more than likely they'll choose the lesser price."

Bob Bennett built the Edgewater Inn 23 years ago and is president of the Mississippi Hotel and Lodging Association.

"My first offhand opinion is, that's not any way to get a tax passed. You should talk to the people involved. You should tell them why you want it," said Bennett, "You should make studies of why it's necessary. And ultimately you'll have to convince the people, 'cause I don't see any way this won't require a referendum."

Many hotel operators say it was the sudden nature of the tax request that makes it all the more troubling. It apparently caught many of them by surprise.

San Naqvi is general manager of the Super 8 Hotel in Biloxi.

"It was in shock this morning when I saw that five dollar additional tax.  I mean we're already paying a 12 percent, which is higher than any other county. So, I'm really surprised to see this tax increase. And more shocking is they never consulted us. Never asked us our opinions. So, this is what we're not very happy about," he said.

Hotel operators say in these tight financial times, visitors are watching their travel budgets more closely. Any competitive disadvantage could send travelers elsewhere.

"Really, you're discouraging people to come stay in Biloxi. So, they will go to Ocean Springs and other places," said Naqvi.

The Biloxi City Council could very well have the votes to override the mayor's veto. The hotel tax proposal passed unanimously on a 6-to-0 vote Thursday. Council member Lucy Denton was not at the meeting.

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