ATLANTA — A measure to raise Macon and Bibb County’s hotel-motel tax by a penny easily passed a key committee Thursday morning at the state Capitol.
The vote, in the Georgia House of Representatives tax code writing committee, was unanimous despite public opposition to the bill from the hotel industry and convention and visitors bureaus across the state.
The measure, contained in House Bill 993, would increase the sales tax charged on hotel and motel stays from 6 cents on the dollar to 7 cents. The extra money would be split among the Georgia sports and music halls of fame — state-run entities that have taken significant budget cuts — and the historic Douglass Theatre in downtown Macon.
The unanimous vote in the House Ways and Means Committee, which is chaired by state Rep. Larry O’Neal, R-Warner Robins, bodes well for the bill despite lobbying opposition at the Capitol.
Convention and visitors bureaus, in particular, are concerned about the precedent the measure could set, because most hotel-motel tax revenues flow through CVBs in current state law.
But state Rep. David Lucas, D-Macon, and state Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, downplayed that potential before Thursday morning’s committee vote, noting the various hoops a community has to jump through before it could divvy up new sales tax revenue like this.
“We are not opening up the floodgates,” Peake said.
Peake is a member of the Ways and Means Committee and has risen fast through the GOP leadership ranks since arriving at the Capitol in 2006. Lucas is one of the House’s longest serving members, and both have found common ground this year on this hotel-motel tax bill. That differs from last year, when local legislators couldn’t work out a plan for splitting the new revenue, and an effort to help fund the halls of fame died for the year.
This year’s bill must still make it through the House Rules Committee, which will decide whether it makes it to the full House floor. Once there, it will be up to the full House of Representatives to decide its fate.
The bill also will have to clear the state Senate and be signed by the governor to take effect.
Peake and Lucas said they’re optimistic about the bill’s chances in the House, though Lucas said “it’s still a fight.”
If the measure clears the House, state Sen. Robert Brown, D-Macon, said he’s confident he and state Sen. Cecil Staton, R-Macon, can shepherd the bill through the Senate.
To contact writer Travis Fain, call 361-2702.