It seems everyone in Maine is hopping on the “tax tourists more” bandwagon. Its only “fair” they argue. But before we talk about raising taxes, Maine should first stop subsidizing tourism. According to the Maine State Government Annual Report, the Maine Office of Tourism spends almost $8 million a year. Keep in mind that a subsidy is the same thing as a negative tax.
Here is how the Office of Tourism describes their mission–sounds like a subsidy to me.
The Office of Tourism was created by law to serve as a single, official spokesperson on State tourism policy with the authority to implement marketing, management and research programs. The Office’s broad directive is to promote Maine as a four season destination to both consumers and the trade. The Office includes the Maine Film Office which is responsible for the promotion of Maine as a location for film and video production.
To accomplish its mission, the Office is authorized to: conduct research to determine market demand; implement public relations and promotional programs designed to market Maine’s travel-product; print materials as needed to fulfill requests for information about Maine by consumers and the travel trade; encourage the development of travel-product facilities and attractions; operate tourist information centers; serve as a liaison between private industry groups and local, state, and federal agencies involved in tourism promotion and development; and provide basic support and discretionary grants to regional tourism agencies.
In addition, eliminating the Office of Tourism would solve another problem. As Jason Fortin blogged a few day ago, the legislature is looking for $10 million in general fund reductions. The elimination of the Office of Tourism gets you 80% of the way there . . . probably more when you factor in the long-term savings from eliminating several state positions and their unfunded actuarial liabilities.