The following is a letter to the editor from Paula Casagrande:
This past Friday I took off work and traveled to Annapolis to meet with Harford County Delegates on Tourism day to ask them to please introduce a bill for a tourism dedicated hotel tax. Harford County is the only county in Maryland and the surrounding three states without such a fee. This would put Harford County on a level playing field with other counties in attracting visitors. And visitors would increase business for everyone, myself included. I own a sign/printing business that services tourism related businesses. Twenty-seven other Harford Countians (hoteliers, museums, business owners & citizens) also took off work to make the same request. I did not feel we were well received. Senators Jacobs and Glassman did not bother to attend. In fact one delegate seemed more interested in her smart phone than in what her constituents were requesting. I don't understand why our delegates are denying us a source of revenue for our tourism efforts that every single county enjoys.
The head of our delegation Mr. Impallaria also represents Baltimore County which collects $7 million a year. Why is Baltimore County allowed this and we are not? After the fact, Del. Impallaria has offered an explanation that the delegation does not want to introduce legislation that would be a “blank check” for Harford County. That is not an explanation. It is an excuse. The enabling legislation that businesses have requested would not be a “blank check” at all. The revenue would be tied to tourism—an industry that increased in Harford County last year by 9 percent. It sounds to me like our delegation’s desire to control, restrict and manipulate our local governments from Annapolis is blinding it to the benefits that this revenue could bring to the local economy, local employees and local businesses. After all, 97 percent of the businesses that support tourism are small, local businesses like mine, that are more than willing to rely on our municipal and county governments to make good decisions for us without Annapolis second-guessing the use of the revenue before we even have the ability to collect it.
Delegate Glass had contemplated introducing legislation but then decided not to. When I emailed Friday evening expressing to him my disappointment and how he could have been a hero, his response was, "The reason I did not put this bill in today was that many in the delegation were getting angry at me. I was told that all my bills may be killed." Sounds like bullying to me. I just do not understand this. This is not a tax paid by us ... visitors pay this! Again, I ask any of our delegates who are reading this to please introduce a tourism-dedicated hotel tax and pass it. If not, I ask my fellow Harford Countians the next time you travel for work or go on vacation and pay a hotel tax to other jurisdictions, remember that your own representatives do not think Harford County is worthy of having our tourism funded and allowing businesses to succeed and grow. Please maintain that thought next election day.