Exec Cites Lobbying Effort in Maine
Rick Abare, the executive director of the Maine Campground Owners Association (MECOA), called the 2007 session of the Maine Legislature “the legislative session from below, with attacks on tourism from all sides.”
In a summary for the August Northeast In-Sites newsletter for the Northeast Campground Association Inc., Abare said the association’s lobbying effort in Augusta, the state capital, was successful but not without some consternation.
“For the record our lodging tax is 7%, not too bad for the Northeast,” he stated. “But the lodging tax in Maine includes not only overnight site rentals but seasonal site rentals as well. At one point there were 24 bills proposing increases in the lodging tax and if they all passed we would have had a 43% tax on overnight stay in Maine.”
He noted that other bills included everything from the start date for schools, shore bird habitat and vernal pool setbacks to leaseholder rights.
“The last day of the session was June 21 and the fight was constant right up until the end,” he said.
MECOA joined several tourist-minded organizations in the state to hire a PR firm to lay out a strategy to protect their industry. Other members were the Innkeepers Association and the Maine Tourism Association “along with others in a loose knit organization called the Maine Hospitality and Tourism Alliance.”
“We met three times with the governor, three times with the speaker of the House, and several times with the chairs of the Joint Taxation Committee to reinforce the industry’s opposition to increases taxes on our customers,” he said.
“At the same time the Appropriations Committee was trying to raid the Tourism Fund of millions of dollars. To make an obviously long story short, we won,” he said.
“The MECOA board was willing to spend the money necessary to participate in the alliance’s activities and it paid off with the positive recognition of MECOA as a force within the tourism industry. The lodging tax is still 7%, for this year, but the fight is far from over; too many people in Augusta see our out-of-state customers as an easy target to get what has been coined as ‘exportable tax revenues.”’
Pat Kosalka, MECOA president, and several board members testified at the hearings.
“I want to tell you now that it was very impressive when from one side of the hearing room, 10 campground owners are standing up in opposition to a proposed tax bill,” Abare said. “The point here is when you’re called to come to the capital and you show up, it makes a difference.”