The Rhode Island Hospitality Association says this year’s legislative session ended with the industry at least able to stay on an equal footing with other sectors. That’s thanks largely to defeat of both a bill that would have reduced the sales tax for most industries but not hospitality, and another measure to create a commission to study a minimum wage within the hospitality industry.
Each of those bills could have created a competitive disadvantage for the industry, said H. Robert Bacon, chairman of the association’s board of directors, and association President and CEO Dale J. Venturini.
Partly because hospitality as an industry has been growing, unlike other industries, despite the recession, Bacon said, the “uninformed attitude” that “just 1 more percent” in taxes from the hospitality segment of the marketplace wouldn’t hurt the industry is the “the kind of attitude that’s existed for a long time [in Rhode Island].”
Ultimately, the sales tax was not restructured, because, “this year, we had some people that understood [that position]. We felt it was actually taken seriously,” he said.
Bacon also expressed concern, however, that the hospitality industry “has a target on our back” and is often singled out for changes or attempts to generate state revenue that could have negative repercussions on business. He cited the meals tax as an example.
“We already have a meals tax,” he said. “My customers pay 8 percent instead of 7 percent [tax]. It generates hundreds of thousands of dollars. When it was put on, we were assured it was a temporary solution, but it hasn’t gone away.”
Asked about the association’s concerns, House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello noted that the intent of new bills is to help not only individual sectors at times, but “the economy and the state in the long term.