JEFFERSON CITY — Local officials are pushing for approval of a transient guest tax, or bed tax, under House Bill 28 in hopes that tourism will gain traction in Ashland.
If it passes, the bill would allow any future hotel in Ashland to tax guests up to 5% on top of the price of each occupied room per night.
House Bill 28, sponsored by Rep. Sara Walsh, R Ashland, passed the House Special Committee on Tourism during an executive session Wednesday.
The bill will move to the House floor next, before being sent to the Senate and the governor. The final decision will be up to the residents of Ashland, who will vote on the tax once it leaves the governor’s desk.
Tony St. Romaine, Ashland’s city administrator, said local officials have worked with Walsh over the last year to get the tax passed. St. Romaine said he is optimistic about commercial development in Ashland and the corresponding benefits of the bed tax.
St. Romaine said the city hopes to build one or two hotels in Ashland within the next two to three years, although the city does not currently have a hotel. One future hotel would be near the Columbia Regional Airport, corresponding with plans for the Lakeside Ashland entertainment park.
Lakeside Ashland is an upcoming complex that will include a lake, outdoor amphitheater and golf. Construction is expected to start in the spring at the new park site, 5900 E. Log Providence Road, west of U.S. 63 at the airport exit.
“You have people flying into Columbia or maybe flying out early in the morning, and having a place to stay convenient to the airport seems to make sense,” St. Romaine said.
He said two business parks are ready for development: Cartwright Business and Technology Center and East Ashland Plaza. The Cartwright Center sits adjacent to the airport, while East Ashland Plaza is off State Route Y near the main exit to Ashland.
Lelande Rehard, Ashland’s assistant city administrator, submitted written testimony in support of the bill during its Feb. 10 hearing. Rehard testified that the bed tax is a “needed funding source for our community” as tourism and development increase.
Rehard estimated that with a bed tax of 4%, a new Ashland hotel at 63% capacity would generate an additional $137,510 annually.
Rehard testified that once the full Cartwright Center, “is built out, i.e. retail, hotel, restaurants, gas station, etc., they are estimating 3,000,000 visitors annually.”
Besides funding economic development and tourism, St. Romaine said the bed tax will help cover expenses for public safety, including an additional law enforcement substation near the airport.