Local hotel-motel tax hike hits snag as state rep wants Douglass Theatre, stadium to get share of funds

A proposal to add a penny to the local hotel-motel tax to help fund the sports and music halls of fame in Macon has hit a major snag, sparking a disagreement among local legislators that threatens to derail the tax this year.

Instead of splitting the new penny 50/50 between the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame and the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in downtown Macon, state Rep. David Lucas wants the Douglass Theatre to get a piece of the pie.

He said he also wants some of the money to help pay for a new 25,000-seat football stadium and amphitheater in Macon, setting up an equal four-way split of the penny tax.

Lucas, D-Macon, said he would not support a split that benefits just the two halls of fame, which is what the Macon City Council and the Bibb County Commission have both asked for in resolutions passed in the last several months.

Though they did not draw a line in the sand over the issue, local Republican legislators said they'd rather just move forward on the city-county request, letting the sports and music halls share the money by themselves.

Both museums were built by the state, and they get most of their annual funding from the state. But they've been targeted for budget cuts in the past and some have hoped to stave off, or at least slow down, further cuts by showing a willingness to kick in local tax dollars.

Failure to do that could be the "first stake in the heart in the death of the halls of fame," said state Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon.

Local legislators, who met on the issue Wednesday at the state Capitol, agreed to meet again and discuss things further. Lucas and state Rep. Nikki Randall, D-Macon, said repeatedly Wednesday that it's the state's job to fund the halls and that contributing local dollars to them — particularly if other local entities don't also benefit — sets a bad precedent.

Peake and state Sen. Cecil Staton, R-Macon, said they understood that and didn't disagree.

"I'm just trying to deal with the reality we're faced with now," Peake said.

For more on this story see Thursday's Telegraph.