Wednesday, October 31, 2012

LOT is not suited for air service

Prior to voting on the 1 percent LOT increase it is important to understand how the LOT was established.

In the 1970s, it became clear that we were a tourist town. Our population was doubling in winter and summer months due to tourism. The cost of the needed additional police, fire and street maintenance was burdening the property-tax payers. We needed to spruce up our city with a free bus system (Vail had a great one), more open space, parks and bike paths. We wanted to make the Ketchum/Sun Valley experience as good as we could for our guests. But these improvements were financially unattainable.

I was a Ketchum city councilman at the time. Our solution was to collect a city sales tax, but it was not allowed under Idaho law. So we made a proposal to the Legislature to create a new law to allow resort communities to collect a “tourist tax.” They denied it. The state of Idaho was already collecting a sales tax and they did not want any city to collect additional taxes and were concerned that the tax would, sooner or later, be abused.

We felt this issue was too important, so we enlisted Sun Valley, McCall, Lava Hot Springs and Coeur d’Alene and collectively took our request to the Idaho Supreme Court. The court agreed with us and allowed a new law, with restrictions.

So what started out as a “tourist tax” to unburden the property taxpayers has grown to a city tax on all purchases (except groceries). This 1 percent increase for air will create an 8 percent and even 9 percent tax (including state tax) on purchases we all make, exactly what the legislators in the ’70s were concerned would happen.

I am proud to have been a part of creating the LOT. It has served our community well. Air service is important to our community. But the local-option tax is not the right method.

Jack Corrock



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