Voters will end lodging tax debate

Today, Jefferson City voters will decide whether or not to increase the lodging tax.

Right now, those who stay at Jefferson City hotels and motels pay a 3% tax.

The question on the ballot would raise the tax to 7%.

The additional revenue would got to fund a proposed conference center in downtown Jefferson City.

The proposed $42 million conference center is at the center of the debate.

Opponents said the city doesn't have the necessary tools to make the facility successful and the tax will only hurt the already weak economy.

"Higher taxes, in a very weak economy doesn't make sense no matter which way you look at it," Double Tree Hotel General Manager, Vik Puri said.

He said now is not the time to build a conference center.

"There's no demand, but you're going to increase supply, does that fit basic economics ? I don't think it does.

Supporters of the tax said just the opposite and believe the old saying is true: 'if you build it, they will come.'

"It would bring additional people to the city, it would bring additional people to the downtown area which supports and bolsters downtown businesses restaurants, bars, retail establishments and so on," City Councilman Jim Penfold said.

The site for the conference center sits off of the Whitton Expressway near the Capital Plaza Hotel.

"It's a beautiful site, its right next to the prettiest capitol in the united states , it's got the infrastructure already in place, its got a major highway, it's a perfect location," Jefferson City mayor John Landwehr said.

Mayor Landwehr said it's time the city gets help from visitors to pay for improvements.

"When I go to St. Louis, Kansas City, or Chicago and I get my hotel bill, I always look at the bottom line and there's always some significant add-ons, Mayor Landwehr said. That's because those communities have realized that when visitors come to town those visitors can help pay for things and we're not real good at that yet.

However, a group called Responsible Community Growth says the city needs to focus on providing a more vibrant experience for visitors before building the conference center.

"They will look for places to go, good places to eat, and particularly places where they can go and see a show and really take advantage of the environment and bring their families with them as well, we haven't planned for that, we need to," Chairman for Responsible Community Growth Tom Piper said.

"It could be the Taj Mahal of convention centers, but if people have nothing to do, why are they going to come? Puri said.

Those on both sides of the issue want residents to know that it is only those who stay at hotels who will pay the tax.

The Truman hotel, Capitol Plaza Hotel and Holiday Inn Express are also opposed to the tax.

Those for it include the convention and visitors bureau and the city council.