Columbia\'s Bernadette Drive highlights conflict on hotel tax proposition

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COLUMBIA - Bernadette Drive in Columbia has become a field of conflict for the upcoming vote on Proposition 1 which will be featured on the ballot in both Columbia and Boone County on August 2. Signs in opposition and support line the street. 

If passed, Proposition 1 would allow the city to raise taxes on hotels and motels from 4 percent to 5 percent of the receipts paid by guests. The tax could last as long as 23 years, and the funds would go to tourism and economic development purposes. One of the purposes would be the construction of a new terminal at the Columbia Regional Airport. The tax imposed thereafter would be collected at about 4 percent. 

The Holiday Inn Executive Center's billboard reads "VOTE NO ON PROP 1 AUGUST 2." Across the street in front of the Columbia Mall and on neighboring properties there are many signs that argue in support of the measure. There were a great deal more signs for the measure than against it.

Robyn Pierson, general manager of the Holiday Inn, spent her afternoon delivering opposition signs and is highly against the proposition. 

"There's no plan, there's nothing to execute what's going to happen once its built, there's no more airlines coming in," Pierson said.

Alden's main arguments included: Taxes are posed on tourists at her hotel not residents, the revenue generated would be put into a "slush fund" that the city could use wherever it needs beyond just the airport and Columbia does not have the tourism demand for an airport expansion. 

Jake Alden is a Purdue student who grew up in Columbia off Broadway. Alden said that an expansion of the airport would be extremely beneficial to travelers like himself who frequently fly in and out of the city.

"The cost to build it which may take a while, will be pretty negligible given the returns from all the new flights we are going to see coming into town. Flight options are so limited with our only terminal," Alden said.