Thursday, March 31, 2011

Roseburg City Council Shot Down Proposal That Would Have Reduced VCB's Marketing Budget

On March 28, Roseburg City Council rejected a proposal to use hotel and motel taxes to revamp the South Umpqua waterfront. Under this proposal, the city’s VCB would have had about $200,000 a year less in their advertising budget. Drew Baily, regional representative for ORLA, provided testimony before Roseburg City Council in opposition to this proposal.

Here’s an excerpt from his testimony:

“At this time, we (ORLA) do not support the proposal to reduce the Roseburg marketing budget allocated to tourism promotion and ask that you table any discussion of reducing the funds used for marketing. The hospitality industry is one of the leading economic drivers for the state and we ask that you continue to support and promote a growing, sustainable and productive industry in Roseburg.

There may never be a right time to raise taxes or put jobs at risk, but there certainly are wrong times to do so. Douglas County’s unemployment rate remains in double digits and any decision that puts existing and future business growth at risk should be avoided if at all possible.

Some wine industry experts predict that Southern Oregon and the Umpqua Valley are positioned to be the next Napa Valley. Roseburg should reaffirm its commitment to spurring on economic growth through promotion of sustainable, high yield industries. The tourism industry is one that creates a positive economic impact on communities throughout Oregon.

We ask you to reject any proposal that threatens to further weaken the local tourism economy or negates the long-term benefit gained from a robust tourism industry. Thank you for the opportunity to provide input into this important matter before Council.”

Read more on ORLA's advocacy efforts.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Capital Gains Bills in Senate Revenue Committee

Last Wednesday, the Senate House Committee heard testimony on Senate Bills (SB) 8, 883, and 714. Each of these bills proposes a reduction on Oregon's capital gains tax. SB 8, introduced by Senate President Peter Courtney, will reduced the tax, but does not give a specific rate in the text of the bill. Bills 883 and 714 will introduce a progressive tax on capital gains, however, SB 883 has a sunset provision that will allow the bill to only be effective until 2013.

A capital gains tax reduction is imperative. The state of Oregon currently has a capital gains tax rate of 11%, tied for highest in the nation with Hawaii. Due to this high tax rate, Oregon stands to lose business to neighboring states that either charge a lower rate, or have no capital gains tax at all (such as Washington). Not only does this mean lost jobs for Oregonians, but also lost revenue for the state.

In Wednesday’s Senate Revenue Committee hearing, a number of people turned out to support these proposed reductions, including Senator Olsen, Senator Atkinson, and Senator Read. Senator Atkinson discussed specific cases he witnessed in which business associates decided to move to Washington to avoid capital gains taxes. Oregon business representatives also turned out to argue for these important bills, stressing competition with Washington, and a loss of angel investments due to these taxes.

It is important that capital gains taxes in the state of Oregon are reduced. To save jobs and our economy, please contact your senator and ask them to support these important bills.

Bill Perry
Vice President of Government Affairs

Friday, March 25, 2011

Updates from the Capitol: ORLA’s GA team in action

HB 3295: This bill would allow local government to close an OLCC establishment for 72 hours if officials believe that continued sales or operation is an immediate threat to public safety. At the March 14 hearing I testified alongside a couple of attorneys representing the industry that talked about the Constitutional ramifications and gave additional legal insight on the bill with case examples of how the system and OLCC currently work today. Additionally, a local owner/operator of several area restaurants talked about how this legislation could potentially harm responsible operators. My testimony pointed out all the different tools we currently have instituted that can be used to restrict and close problem establishments. This appears to be more of a communication and lack of resources problem then lack of tools. The hearing lasted close to 2 hours with opposing testimony and the bill still doesn't appear to be going anywhere in its current form but we’ll continue to keep a close eye on it.

Gift Cards: On March 17th I attended a meeting with the grocers and additional retailers regarding a bill that would require all gift cards to be reloadable and once the amount of the card got under $10 it retailers would have to give cash for the balance (an idea coming out of CA). We all voiced our opposition to this bill and explained why this is not as easy as it sounds. We will be doing the same during the hearing next for SB 756.

SB 669: ORLA testified in front of the senate business committee in favor of SB 669 which allows manufacturer or wholesaler of alcoholic liquor to sponsor time or space at venues and amphitheaters with events held on premise. The bill passed out of committee with all aye votes and should be on the floor of the senate soon.

SB 878: ORLA testified in front of the Senate Judiciary in favor of SB 878 which would clarify that servers who are checking Id's for age verification purposes do not need to be DPSST certified. Both the city of Portland and DPSST testified against the bill. There is another hearing/work session scheduled for Monday (3/28). We’re also watching closely SB 635 which deals with exempting volunteers from DPSST certification and SB 69 which allows for golf course operators with a permit to use a type of flare gun to scare away geese - the golf course operators asked for our help on this bill. SB 69 was voted out of committee and SB 635 was scheduled again for Monday.

Kara Thallon
Director of Public Affairs

Thursday, March 24, 2011

ORLA reps discuss industry issues with Oregon’s congressional leaders

Last week a small contingent of ORLA members met with Oregon members of Congress during the second day of the AH&LA Legislative Action Summit in Washington, D.C. We were able to meet with Congressman Greg Walden, Congressman Kurt Schrader and legislative assistants for Congressman Earl Blumenauer and Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley. The visits were productive and our voice was heard on issues we felt important to our industry.

We discussed these specific issues during each of our congressional appointments:

Online Travel Companies - The Expedias of the world are paying local room tax based on their negotiated "wholesale" rate while selling the rooms at a higher retail rate. The result is lower income for the local taxing authority, and a less than straightforward transaction with the consumer who thinks they've paid the room tax on their higher transaction. The danger is that the taxing authority may come after the hotel for the remainder of the unpaid (in their eyes) taxes.

Tourism Investment - We discussed how the funds are being developed for international marketing of travel to the U.S. and the need to ensure it is spent promoting tourism and not taken to fund other programs in these tough budgetary times. These marketing dollars generate increased spending in the U.S. as well as job growth in the tourism industry among restaurants and lodging properties.

International Travel – We need to make it easier for the Asian rim nations to obtain visas to visit the U.S. The current process is cumbersome and it can take 45 - 60 days. That discourages travel to the U.S. as it takes as little as 10 days to obtain visas to other nations competing for the Asian vacation traveler. China alone is projected to have 100 million of its citizens travelling internationally in the coming years. It is to Oregon’s advantage as a Pacific Rim port to do all it can to encourage ease of travel for this lucrative and extensive market.

Unions - We also discussed the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and the pro-union makeup of its board. They have moved from the intended judiciary activities it was designed to perform to one of a more regulatory and rule making model that is intent in providing as much assistance as possible for union organizing activities. We left a list of previous rulings by past NLRB boards (a judiciary function) that the current NLRB board is reviewing with an eye to issuing new rulings that are more pro-union in nature or anti-business in nature depend on your viewpoint.

Steve McCoid
President / CEO

Friday, March 11, 2011

Cannon Beach leaders organize evacuation, shelter.

ORLA member Ocean Lodge helped organize an evacuation of hotel guests during today's tsunami danger. Thanks to Tom Drumheller and his staff for being good citizens and ambassadors of the Oregon hospitality industry. Continue reading

What rising gas prices mean for the restaurant industry

Gas prices have soared the past few weeks. The restaurant industry is prepping for rising cost associated with deliveries. Analyst are projecting increases and the impact on customers. Continue reading

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Incentives for business growth saved by both political parties.

March 7th was a big day at the Oregon Capitol, it was the day that businesses should feel the tide turning and there was a brighter future ahead. I am not trying to sound overly dramatic but it was a big day in my mind.

If you followed the news there was a mistake found in the law which prevented Oregon businesses from an accelerated depreciation schedule for Oregon income tax purposes. This was a mistake that the department of revenue discovered, so business lost a tax incentivize to invest in new equipment and the legislative body gained $100 million in revenue with the discovery. The House Republicans quickly attached an amendment to an existing bill and sent it to the House floor in the form of a “minority report”.

It was setting up to be a straight partisan fight, the Republicans want to keep the incentives to grow the economy and the democrats wanted to include the money for budget discussions. In the end, two Democrats voted with the Republicans to replace the original bill with the minority report to keep the incentives for business growth.

This set off changes that should establish more trust in the business community. Next came a vote to pass the bill to the Senate, 11 Democrats then voted with the Republicans. Later that day the Senate President and the Governor sent out statements that they would support the business growth incentives.

Much thanks to the Republicans for forcing the issue to the floor for the discussion and a big thanks to the two Democrats Mike Schaufler and Jeff Barker who “broke ranks” so to speak and got the ball rolling. Once those two made the stand, Democrats in all branches joined in and returned to tax code to where everyone thought it was at the beginning of the tax year.

Bill Perry

Vice President of Government Affairs