The Legislature has been aggressively focusing on bringing bills in front of committees for hearings in these early stages of the session. March 10 is the first deadline for making initial progress on bills to keep them alive in the process, so it is important to keep things moving and not allow a backlog to form.
One bill I am authoring and look forward to discussing in a hearing would exempt resorts from paying state sales taxes to complete upgrades to their facilities. Resorts are a major component of Minnesota’s tourism industry and this proposal would incentivize modernization and expansion throughout the state, especially in areas such as ours.
Minnesota’s tourism industry has a ripple effect throughout the economy, with Explore Minnesota reporting during 2015 (the most recent year for which figures are available) Otter Tail had more than $92.3 million in gross sales, $6.2 million in state sales tax revenue and 2,079 jobs via leisure and hospitality.
The resorts took a hit during the recession, as overall room revenue in Minnesota dipped by 12.1 percent in 2009 alone, according to Explore Minnesota. Lodging properties have been showing incremental recovery since then and the hope is my bill would be a catalyst to stronger growth.
Click here for more facts and figures regarding tourism from Explore Minnesota.
I will pass along more information as things develop in St. Paul. The state will receive an updated budget/economic forecast in the coming weeks and information from that will provide us firm framework from which to assemble a new two-year state budget. The last forecast showed a $1.4 billion surplus, so it will be interesting to see what is revealed in the next one.