What Happened in Vegas...

Some things that happen in Vegas are not meant to stay there. What happened at the 2007 Car Rental Show at the Las Vegas Hilton last month should be emailed, telephoned, instant messaged and shouted from rooftop to rooftop to every rental car company in America. And then, in turn, the message should blow into the offices of local, state and national politicians, who need to know that there is a strong and growing coalition of car rental companies whose customers will no longer be an easy target for funding projects that have no correlation to the rental industry.

The message, simply, is that auto rental excise taxes are arbitrary, predatory and inequitable, and interfere with interstate commerce. The message is that these taxes unfairly overburden a narrow segment of the travel industry, and that they are borne by a greater percentage of a local constituency than a politician might think.

What happened in Vegas this past June? If you were at the show, then you heard people with juice in Washington talk about the extent of the excise tax problem and their efforts to solve it – on your behalf.

Peter Vroom, president and CEO of the Truck Rental and Leasing Association, graphically presented the dollar value of specific legislative wins TRALA had a hand in. The figure runs into the billions. Ray Wagner, vice president of legislative affairs for Enterprise Rent-A-Car, introduced HR 2453, the bill that takes on excise taxes on a national level. Bruce Charendoff, senior vice president, government affairs of Sabre Holdings, demonstrated that a united travel and tourism industry can learn from and build on each other’s failures and successes. And Sean Busking reported on ACRA’s efforts to defeat excise tax proposals in Nevada and Wisconsin, among other local initiatives.

But here’s the thing – just sitting in a room listening to speakers amounts to expended hot air. Vroom, Wag-ner, Charendoff and Busking now expect you to go out and do something about it. The Big Guys, for a change, need your help.

How? Congressmen listen to the lobbying efforts of Avis Budget, Hertz and Enterprise. But the independent operator with hat-in-hand standing before a subcommittee is a highly effective instrument in the political process. You are the grassroots movement. You are the constituency, the small businessman who is getting hurt when your customers suffer an unfair tax burden.

Whether it’s HR 2453 on a national level, or a state or local excise tax proposal, the outcome will not swing in the industry’s favor without your voice educating the politicians. They will listen to you.

Pick up the phone and call Sean Busking at ACRA. His number is 888-200-2795. Send me an email or call me at 310-533-2499. Tell us what’s brewing in your area, legislatively or otherwise, as it pertains to your business.

If you know the details of a public hearing on a state or county excise tax bill, I’ll post the time and place on autorentalnews.com. In turn I’ll share with you the latest developments on an issue as I know them. Help us make our Web sites and publications clearinghouses for information to effect change that benefits the industry.

Let’s get the word out on what happened in Vegas.

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