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Have to promote No. 1 industry

Kaye Ferry

I’ll tell you what. The Colorado Tourism Office just can’t get a break. They almost had one, but then we all know that “almost” only counts in what is it? Horse shoes?HB1281 was on its way to solving some of the tourism industry’s marketing woes, but the wheels fell off. The state House Finance Committee passed it 10-2 and it was on it way to the House Appropriations Committee.But politics roared its ugly head. It was the feeling in both houses and the governor’s office that passage might have a negative effect on the TABOR referendum that will be on the ballot next November.The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Al White, R- Winter Park, will reintroduce the bill next session. He has been quoted as saying that the letters, calls and e-mails of support from the tourist-dominated areas have made a big difference in pushing this issue forward and should be continued.For now, the bill has been “laid over” until next session. However, if it’s passed then, it would allow Colorado taxpayers to put money towards tourism promotion in exchange for a state income tax credit. It would support the Colorado Travel and Tourism Additional Source Fund. A maximum of $15 million in tax credits would be allowed annually. Ninety percent would go towards tourism marketing, with the other 10 percent going to the Colorado Council on the Arts.Longwoods International, a market research company out of Toronto, provides services for the state of Colorado as well as the Vail Local Marketing District. While I’ve never been convinced of the claims made by gurus in this area, that doesn’t stop them or stop us from paying them for piles of statistics. Longwoods likes to say that for every $1 spent promoting tourism, state and local governments receive $15.58 in taxes.I’ve never figured out how such statements are made, how they’re ever proved or where they come from in the first place. But what seems indisputable is that when Colorado rescinded its former tax to support marketing, the state plummeted in its position as a tourist destination. For years there wasn’t even a 1-800-COLORADO number anymore. And we all suffered.Keep in mind that tourism is the No. 1 industry in Colorado, yet somehow the voters have failed to understand that you have to promote any product you’re trying to sell. Hopefully, this bill will resurface and gain support because we all need it, even the areas that don’t think of themselves as being dependent on tourists. We are all are because the taxes they generate filter to Denver and get divvied up throughout the state regardless of whether a tourist has ever set foot in the community.Sorry to see HB 1281 set aside for now, but certainly hope it works its way to the top of the pile in the next session.OPEN SPACE: And talk about working its way to the top of the pile, I’m back to Eaton Ranch. No need to restate my position. Let me sum it up by saying that the use of county general funds to supplement the open space fund is irresponsible government at its most outrageous. But I’d better be careful going so far out on a limb because you never know what they’ll do next.Did I really say that? Just when I thought they had moved to a new pinnacle of audacity, they’re discussing asking the voters to let them also borrow against the open space fund. They are debating with their open space committee a proposal that would leverage the $3 million that is collected in the open space fund to $40 mil in tax liabilities. And here I go again, weighing in on a question Don Rogers asked last Thursday: “Who would trust these folks with $40 million?” I for one know the answer. Not me.Meanwhile, back to the ranch. On May 26 in Colorado Springs, Great Outdoors Colorado will conduct its first full-scale public hearing on what their contribution, if any, will be to this fiasco. As a reminder, GOCO was set up in 1992 through an amendment to the state Constitution which authorized 50 percent of the proceeds of the lottery to “help preserve, protect, enhance, manage the state’s wildlife, park, river, trail, and open space heritage”. They are being asked to provide some of the funding for the proposed purchase. They will have a discussion with input from the public as to the validity of using their funds for this purpose. They will also review the appraisal – something that we were told was unnecessary before we moved forward with a vote, questionably sage advice from a partner in the community’s leading real estate kingdom.The Eagle County rep to GOCO has made it perfectly clear that she is not in favor of this expenditure. The vote is anticipated on June15 in Sterling. They have many options that range from granting the requested amount, to approving zero dollars, to funding only certain portions of the deal.Only time will tell, but I don’t need any more time to tell you how I feel. We don’t need any song and dance men in the Vail Valley. We have the Eagle County commissioners.MISCELLANEOUS: More Film Festival. Another release that you saw first at the Vail Film Festival- Kung Fu Hustle. Hey, not my taste but as I keep saying, I’m not the only one here. Another notch in the VFF belt.Twenty-two arrests at the Snoop Dogg concert? No. Twenty-two arrests for the week. There are those that would always like you to think things are worse than they are.Do your part: call them and write them. To contact the Town Council, call 479-1860, ext. 8, or e-mail towncouncil@vailgov.com. To contact Vail Resorts, call 476-5601 or e-mail vailinfo@vailresorts.com. For past columns, vaildaily.com-columnists or search:ferry. Kaye Ferry is a longtime observer of Vail government. She writes a weekly column for the Daily.Vail, Colorado


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