Steinhauser: Hassan open to hotel fee; still opposes room tax increase
CONCORD - Gov. Maggie Hassan says she's "open to the idea" of allowing New Hampshire cities and towns to charge as much as $1 per night in a hotel room fee.
A bill that would do just that has been proposed by state Sen. Martha Fuller Clark, who represents the 21st District, which includes her hometown of Portsmouth as well as the seacoast communities of Durham, Lee, Madbury, Newfields, Newington, and Newmarket.
Some Portsmouth leaders are pushing to pass the legislation, saying the extra revenues are needed to help pay the costs of providing city services when the tourist mecca swells with extra people on the weekends and during the summertime.
Hassan said she agreed that adding a $1 fee to the price of a hotel room wouldn't hurt Portsmouth when it comes to attracting tourists.
"I have friends from around the country who come here repeatedly and say to me what a good deal hotels on the Seacoast are," Hassan said.
When the two-term Democrat was first running for governor, she opposed any increase in the meals and rooms tax.
I'm not going to support a raise in the rooms and meals tax. So, I won't support it. As we all know, budgets are compromise documents, but I think it would be very ill-advised to raise the rooms and meals tax. I believe at this point we've got the highest for the northeast, for New England, and I would see that as being a competitive disadvantage for raising it anymore," Hassan said at a New Hampshire Tourism Summit in October 2012.
A top Hassan aide says that the governor's openness to a hotel fee of up to one dollar per night doesn't mean she's now open to an increase in the statewide meals and rooms tax.
"As our second largest industry, travel and tourism helps drive our economy forward, creates jobs and expands middle class opportunity. In order to help support travel and tourism and strengthen aid to local communities, Governor Hassan's fiscally responsible, balanced budget proposal increased travel and tourism promotion, and provided a $5 million increase in Meals and Rooms distributions to local communities in the second year of the biennium," Hassan communications director William Hinkle told NH1 News on Wednesday.
"This legislation is not an increase to the meals and rooms tax, instead it gives municipalities the option to enact their own assessment of up to $1 to help pay for local costs such as law enforcement, firefighters and other public safety functions. The Governor continues to oppose an increase in the statewide meals and rooms tax, and she will closely review this legislation as it makes its way through the legislative process," Hinkle added.