New Jersey bill would increase the share of hotel and motel occupancy fee for arts, heritage and tourism programs

USS New Jersey
A view from Philadelphia of the USS New Jersey in Camden, New Jersey. (Photo by Todd DeFeo/The DeFeo Groupe)

(The Center Square) – A New Jersey Senate committee has advanced legislation to allocate all hotel and motel occupancy fees revenue to arts, heritage and tourism programs in New Jersey.

On Thursday, the state Senate Government, Wagering, Tourism & Historic Preservation Committee voted 5-0 in favor of S-2986. The legislation would increase revenue for those purposes from 40% to 100%.

“The hotel-motel occupancy fee has been around for nearly 20 years, but that dedicated revenue has not always been plowed back into the arts, historic preservation or tourism as it should have been,” state Sen. Vin Gopal, D-Monmouth, said in a news release. “We need to solidify support for these institutions that are so much a part of our state’s identity.

“This bill would make sure all the monies generated would be targeted towards New Jersey artists, historic sites and tourist attractions, where it could then be paid forward by attracting more patrons and tourists and in the process boosting local economies across the state,” Gopal added.

Under the proposal, 56.7% of the revenue would go to the New Jersey State Council on the Arts for cultural projects, up from nearly 22.7%. The council must continue to receive at least $31.9 million.

The bill would allocate 31.9% to the Division of Travel and Tourism, up from nearly 12.8%. The division must continue to receive at least $17.6 million.

Additionally, 9.6% would go to the New Jersey Historical Commission, up from about 3.8%. The commission must continue to receive at least $5.5 million.

The remaining 1.8% would go to the New Jersey Cultural Trust, up from about 0.7%. The trust must continue to receive at least $720,000.

“With a more dependable, stable funding source, beneficial arts and preservation programs throughout the state will be better positioned to serve New Jersey residents,” state Sen. Michael Testa, R-Cape May/Atlantic/Cumberland, said in a statement. “Committing a generous portion of the money from the occupancy tax to tourism will create a cycle bringing more visitors to the state, higher room occupancy rates, and additional revenue to pour back into these programs.

“Cape May County sends almost a half billion dollars in tourism tax to Trenton and only about $1 million comes back in return,” Testa added. “It is time to pass legislation so we can invest in our tourism economy to bolster our community.”

The hotel and motel occupancy fee brought in roughly $112 million during the 2019 fiscal year.

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