Debate on Proposition 1 for airport expansion continues

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COLUMBIA - Opponents and supporters of Proposition 1 met at Columbia's Activity and Recreation Center (ARC) Thursday night to voice their opinions on the measure featured on the primary ballot come Tuesday, August 2. 

If Proposition 1 passes, it would put in place a sales tax of 4 to 5 percent on hotels. The money raised from that tax would fund a $38 million terminal at the Columbia Regional Airport. 

PRO PROPOSITION ONE

Former Columbia Mayor, Bob McDavid, was amongst the 30 some participants at the forum. McDavid, a long-term advocate for the Columbia Regional Airport, shared his high praise for the measure. "The problem is that we have an airport terminal that was built in 1969, pre-TSA and its just woefully inadequate," McDavid said. 

McDavid said air service in Columbia is doing well, and the industry is growing exponentially. "We have twice the passengers that we did four years ago," McDavid said. 

An antiquated and overcrowded building is what  McDavid said he believes leaves a bad impression on tourists coming to Columbia. "If you're a visitor coming to Columbia and you land at Columbia Regional Airport, you get off the plane and what you see is two double-wides," McDavid said. 

CON PROPOSITION ONE

Edward Baker owns the Holiday Inn Executive Center. Baker said he is proud of his deep connections to Columbia and involvement in the hotel and lodging industry for over thirty years. Baker expressed concerns of past taxes on his industry and what they have actually been used for. 

Initially Baker supported the tax, but he said that the open-wording of the past ordinance allowed the funds to go into non-related projects. "They lied to us in '99 and took the funds that we voted on as taxpayers. The voters passed an ordinance, 'they' being the city overruled us and took the money," Baker said. 

Baker said he fears that the Columbia City Council will not uphold what the voters want the tax money to go to by using the terminology "economic development."

"The verbiage of the ordinance, they could take all the money and use it for whatever they want," Baker said. 

THE BIG PICTURE

Currently, in both St. Louis and Kansas City the sales tax on hotels is roughly 17 percent. Right now in Columbia the sales tax on hotels is roughly 12.5 percent. 

 

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