A bill that would give smaller counties the option to raise accommodation taxes up to 4 percent of nightly costs to fund regional event centers and urban recreation services passed the House with an 80-26 vote on Thursday .
Brandt Iden, R-Oshtemo Township, told The Center Square he sponsored HB 4816 to provide an economic development tool for communities to construct a regional event center in Ingham, Kalamazoo, Muskegon, Ottawa and Washtenaw counties.
Iden said the legislation lowered the municipality population requirement to 250,000 so those communities could offer the same sort of economic incentives in state statute such as Van Andel Arena and DeVos Place in Grand Rapids, or the TCF Center in Detroit.
“These dollars would only be used for the construction of said regional event center. It couldn’t be used for ongoing maintenance costs or anything like that,” Iden said. “This would be a construction-only assessment and would go away once construction was completed, or the bond was paid off.”
Iden said the legislation provides local government an option; it wouldn’t mandate construction.
The Kalamazoo region has discussed a regional event center since 2009, Iden said, and this would give residents the ability to jump funding roadblocks if they choose.
“This is an important measure to help Kalamazoo County – and other locations in Michigan – continue to build on the state’s economic momentum,” Iden said in a statement.
“Conventions, concerts, and other special events are a key part of tourism and bringing people to downtown areas. Some other counties in Michigan already have tools available to fund the centers needed to host these events. This legislation simply gives municipalities the same opportunity for development that other communities in Michigan already have.”
The bill would impact transient facilities, defined as a building with at least 35 rooms used for providing dwelling, lodging or sleeping, excluding hospitals and nursing homes.
A House Fiscal Agency analysis said visitors would bear the taxes rather than residents.
That differs from the regional economic development nonprofit Southwest Michigan First's 2018 proposal of a 1 percent food and beverage excise tax, which was abandoned because county residents would essentially foot the tax.
Southwest Michigan First, the Michigan Bankers Association, and Lansing Entertainment and Public Facilities Authority support the bill.
Iden said the bill had bipartisan support in the House and he hopes to see the bill on Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s desk within 60 days.