Governor Mark Gordon and First Lady Jennie Gordon walk toward the House chamber before his State of the State address during the opening joint session of the 2020 Budget Session of the Wyoming State Legislature on Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Cheyenne. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

CASPER, Wyo. — A bill that would establish a statewide lodging tax is gaining momentum in the Wyoming House of Representatives.

The House passed the bill on first reading during their Thursday, Feb. 13 floor session. They’d need to do so on two further readings to send the bill to the Senate for consideration.

Governor Mark Gordon has expressed support for the legislation, saying that it could make Wyoming tourism more competitive with other states.

“I applaud our tourism industry and I support its proposal for a lodging tax that would help Wyoming compete with our neighboring states,” Gordon said in his State of the State address. “Tourism and outdoor recreation in Wyoming represents an enormous opportunity to grow our economy. It is a sector which employs more people and returns substantial sales tax revenue. The revenue comes mostly from outside our state.”

Natrona County Commissioner and Visit Casper CEO Brook Kaufman told the Casper City Council in August that the local lodging tax brought in just under $1.8 million in 2018.

The proposed bill would modify lodging tax rules in Wyoming, creating a 5% statewide lodging tax. While local governments could still impose lodging taxes, the maximum local rate would be reduced from 4% to 2%.

But counties would see a portion of revenues from the 5% statewide lodging tax.

“2% of the 5% statewide lodging assessment would be distributed to each county on a monthly basis in proportion to the taxes collected within the county, including all municipalities in that county,” a fiscal note on the proposed bill explains.

The other 3% of the statewide tax would be distributed in the following manner:

-80% of the average annual revenue collected during the preceding 5 years would be deposited each year in the proposed Wyoming Tourism Account. No funds would be expended from the proposed account until appropriated by the legislature. Funds in the proposed account would be used for the operation of the Wyoming Tourism Board and the Wyoming Office of Tourism.

-Any remaining revenue would be deposited in the proposed Wyoming Tourism Reserve and Projects Account. No funds would be expended from the proposed account until appropriated by the legislature. Legislative Service Office

“If a local lodging tax is in place as of January 1, 2021, the local lodging tax would continue until the next election at which the lodging tax would have been considered,” the Legislative Service Office adds. “The new 2% statewide lodging assessment would go into effect upon the expiration of the local lodging tax currently in place.”

During his speech, Gordon noted examples of tourism’s importance in the state and suggested more could be done.

“Whether is is skijoring at the Sundance Winter Carnival this month, skiing in the Tetons or at Hogadon, ice climbing in Cody, snowmobiling in the Bighorns, a ranch vacation in Saratoga, bird watching on the Cokeville Meadows, mountain biking at Curt Gowdy or Johnny Behind the Rocks, enojoying the Daddy of ‘Em All right here in Cheyenne, or a rodeo almost anywhere in Wyoming, fishing in the Wedding of the Waters or on Glendo, or water skiing on the Gorge or Alcova, Wyoming has a bit of something for everyone,” he said.

“Think about what we can do with Hot Springs State Park. Now there is a new military museum in Dubois opening in May. I could go on, but you get the idea. Wyoming is a marvelous place where you can still get on a river, climb a mountain, or simply enjoy a quiet evening on the plains.”

Full details of the proposed lodging tax bill are available online.

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