Montana Rental Car, Bed Tax Funds to Support Tourism

Tourism industry officials are supporting a proposal to funnel $14 million in bed and rental car taxes into promoting Montana despite opposition from the governor, according to the Great Falls Tribune (Great Falls, Mont.).

Tourism is one of the state's largest and fastest growing industries, supporters told the Senate Local Government Committee, generating $2.7 billion in revenue and nearly 46,000 jobs in 2005 alone.

But Montana has fallen from 15th to 34th nationally in tourism promotion since 1993, and is now losing its industry foothold to states that are spending more to bring in visitors, the bill states.

The measure proposes using money from the 4 percent rental car tax and a 3 percent increase to the bed tax passed in 2003 to expand state tourism marketing and the promotion of Montana as a filming location. State parks improvements, historic preservation efforts and the Tribal Tourism Alliance also would be funded under the bill, the Great Falls Tribune reports.

Last spring, Gov. Brian Schweitzer vowed to veto any efforts to divert bed tax revenue away from the promotion of state tourism, but stopped short of supporting a plan to increase those dollars.

State Tourism Advisory Council members said Schweitzer asked them to get together with other tourism groups and draw up a plan showing how they could improve the state's economy if given more promotional money.

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