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Como Tourism Tax

Legislator: ‘never heard from a soul’ about Como tourism tax

By John Howell

Local and private bills in the legislature to add tourism sales tax to food, beverages and lodging in Como and in Sardis met mixed success in the final week of the 2008 regular legislative session.

The Como bill failed and the Sardis bill passed.

Senator Nolan Mettetal, who represents Panola and Tate Counties, attributed the failure of the Como local and private bill to a lack of specific tourism language in the bill and the lack of a concerted effort by Como officials.

“I never saw the resolution,” Senator Nolan Mettetal said. “I still haven’t heard from a soul from Como,” Mettetal added. He said that he once spoke about a tourism tax with Dee Ruhl, wife of Como alderman Dr. Forster Ruhl, about a year earlier.

Mettetal said that he had not been aware that the Como tourism tax measure was in the legislature until it came to the Senate Finance Committee on the final day that it could be considered. Mettetal is a member of the Finance Committee.

“The holdup was in the Senate,” said bill sponsor Representative Joe Gardner of Batesville. “Why they didn’t, I don’t know.”

“We had eight or nine bills that were not tourism,” said Senator Dean Kirby of Rankin County, chairman of the Finance Committee.

“I assigned it to a sub-committee; … I don’t think that Nolan knew it was coming from the House,” Kirby said.

Though the Como bill, failed, a similar proposal sponsored by Senator Mettetal to create a tourism tax for Sardis passed. Both bills appeared to have been written in the same boilerplate language. Each bill calls for an election on the tax with approval of 60 percent of those voting.

The language of each bill is identical throughout their approximate 1,100 words each with two exceptions:

The preamble to the Como bill states “… revenue from the tax shall be expended by the Town of Como to promote tourism, industrial development and general economic development.”

The preamble to the Sardis bill states, “ … the revenue from the tax shall be expended by the City of Sardis to enhance tourism, for industrial and economic development and for the provision of parks and recreation facilities.”

The only other difference in the otherwise identically-worded bills comes in each bill’s section two.

“For the purpose of providing funds to promote tourism, industrial development and general economic development in the Town of Como,” states the Como bill that failed.

“For the purpose of providing funds to enhance tourism, for industrial and economic development and for the provision of parks and recreational facilities,” states the Senate bill that passed.

The next step for the Sardis tourism tax will be a referendum by Sardis voters in which 60 percent of those who vote must approve the tax.

Representative Warner McBride of Batesville, who co-sponsored the Como tourism tax bill, said that local and private bills have traditionally been passed “as a matter of course.”