The politicians in Washington may be ineffective and sometimes loony, but they're no match for their counterparts roaming the 50 state capitals. Here are two particularly harebrained schemes dreamed up by sad and desperate state legislators that seem to have no rationale, except as ways to torment the hotel industry:
• In budget-strapped Tennessee, officials hope to raise an additional $10 million by taxing the value of the food hotels serve to guests as part of complimentary free breakfasts. The proposal in the general assembly is to collect taxes on the food at prevailing sales tax rates by county. A maximum of 9-3/4 percent could be levied. Naturally, the Tennessee Hospitality Association is fighting the proposal, as well it should.
Since the cost of free breakfasts at hotels are built-in to room rates, guests already pay taxes on the meals. My guess is this idea won't gain much traction, but it's an example of what lengths states, cities and even the federal government may go to shore up their budgets. We all need to stay vigilant to these kinds of tactics.
• An even wackier idea (although not one related to taxes) is floating around the Minnesota state legislature. That proposed legislation would prohibit spending state funds at any hotels in the state that offer violent pornography on their pay-per-view TV systems. The idea raises a number of interesting questions: Who determines which porno movies are violent and which are not? Is it okay for state employees to stay at hotels with violent porno while they're out of state?
I'm nearly certain this bill won't get passed either. It's a touchy subject for hotels, however, so I'm sure the state's lodging industry lobby will tread lightly on this and hope it dies a natural death.