Our View: Something worth talking about

A funny thing happened earlier this month, when Craig Daily Press reporter Brandon Johansson began working on a story about the county's lodging tax.

Johansson's story was about whether tourists staying at hunting lodges should pay the same 1.9 percent lodging tax as guests at area hotel and motels.

Our reporter's queries met with anger by some outfitters and guides, who argue they shouldn't have to charge guests the tax because they don't sell lodging. Rather, those outfitters and guides say they offer a hunting package.

Although there have been a few grumblings about the issue, our reporter could find few people willing to touch such a political hot potato.

We're not advocating a position on the lodging tax. We're urging open dialogue and public discussion of the issue.

Some tourism officials say it's only fair that anyone who rents lodging should pay the tax, which generates between $80,000 and $100,000 a year for the Moffat County Tourism Association.

Richard Blakley, chairman of the association's board of directors, said he has mixed feelings. But he also brought up issues of fairness, asserting that if hotel guests must pay the tax, so should anyone staying at a hunting cabin or bunkhouse.

The Moffat County Tourism Association strives to lure tourists, including hunters, to the region. When the association is successful, everyone in the community benefits, including outfitters and guides. A blanket rejection of the idea, because of the "tax" word, is only counterproductive.

Outfitters wouldn't pay the tax directly but would pass it on to their customers.

But some argue that it's unfair to pass the burden on to hunters and other tourists. Doing so, they say, could backfire and scare off or anger hunters and other visitors, who will take their business elsewhere. Tourists resent shelling out money for taxes on hotels, car rentals and other services associated with travel.

That's also a good argument.

Association officials say they haven't calculated just how much money would be generated from imposing the lodging tax on outfitters. We think they should.

With about a dozen outfitters operating in the county, it could mean a sizable increase in tax revenue.

The issue has surfaced before. In 2000 and 2001, the tourism association considered charging outfitters a lodging tax. But after studying the issue, the association and Colorado Department of Revenue officials said outfitters shouldn't have to pay the lodging tax.

Since then, the issue has festered below the surface. Some outfitters refuse to discuss it.

But as the area seeks to increase tourism and market Moffat County, we think it's something worth talking about.

We encourage outfitters and county residents affected by the lodging tax to determine what is right, fair and would be most beneficial to everyone.

Staying silent because we're afraid to open a can of worms isn't a good idea. We think it's always best to confront potential issues before they become problems of magnitude.

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