Voters decide on hotel tax to fund $38 million airport expansion

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COLUMBIA - Columbia voters decided Tuesday to support a measure that would increase the sales tax placed on hotels from 4 to 5 percent as part of an effort to fund renovations to the Columbia Regional Airport. The measure, Proposition 1, has been hotly contested in Columbia in the weeks leading up to the vote and passed by a two-to-one margin.

It will raise taxes on hotels and motels with the tax burden placed on hotel guest receipts. The tax would run as long as 23 years and the funds are specified to the fields of "tourism and economic development."

The most well-known and contested of the potential projects would be a $38 million renovation and expansion of the Columbia Regional Airport. 

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.
 
Columbia's Bernadette Drive highlighted the contrast in opinion on the matter with both sides of the road littered with for and against signage. The most notable was the large billboard put up by the Holiday Inn and Expo Center.
 
CON ARGUMENTS
 
Critics of Proposition 1 argued the following:
  • A similar tax passed in 1999 used wording that was too broad and allowed the allocated funds to be distributed to areas not related to the project. Many in opposition of Proposition 1 argue the wording "economic development" on the current ballot would do the same. 
  • There is a lack of market for expansion of the airport. 
  • The tax burden is unfairly placed upon visitors to Columbia instead of Columbia residents who would benefit most from the expansion. 

PRO ARGUMENTS

Supporters argued this way:

  • In it's current form, the Columbia Regional Airport is not compliant with standards established by the Americans with Disabilities Act. 
  • The number of passengers choosing Columbia Regional Airport has grown exponentially in recent years. 
  • The 1969 building is overcrowded and makes a bad first impression for visitors traveling to mid-Missouri. 

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