NEW ORLEANS -- It's a push to pump millions of dollars into tourism marketing for New Orleans through a proposed surcharge on hotel guests’ bills.
As state lawmakers consider Senate Bill 242, the “hotel assessment measure,” the Bureau of Governmental Research is questioning the plan in a new report.
"This is a decision that really should be made locally and after giving consideration to all the needs on a comprehensive basis," said BGR President Janet Howard.
Howard believes the proposal could affect other areas of need for the city.
"This is called an assessment, but it basically functions as a hotel occupancy tax; and so, it consumes part of the tax capacity of the community. That means the money that could be available for infrastructure and services," she said. "We have big infrastructure problems. We have the consent decrees that the mayor is trying to figure out how to pay for."
However, local tourism officials said that argument is off-base.
"This is not a tax. It is an optional assessment and the hotels get to choose whether or not they implement that assessment," said Kelly Schulz, vice president of communications at the N.O. Convention and Visitors Bureau.
According to Schulz, if state lawmakers pass the proposal, local hotels would then need to approve the assessment with their own two-thirds vote.
Hotels could then still choose whether or not to participate, she said.
"The positive thing about this assessment is that it's gonna create marketing funds for the city of New Orleans that can bring in 5,000 jobs, $500 million of economic impact," Schulz said.
The debate lies in the hands of state lawmakers.
The SB 242 easily passed through the senate and is now expected to be taken up by a house committee Wednesday.