Monday, April 16, 2012

Tourism industry rallies to defend budget from pass throughs

It’s that time again, when the Louisiana House Appropriations Committee hears testimony from numerous industries and groups in danger of cuts to programs and initiatives. In the crosshairs again this year is the Louisiana tourism budget which is now overrun with “pass throughs” which in previous years were covered through the state’s general fund.

“We are asking to reduce the pass throughs by half at a minimum,” said Marion Fox, President, Louisiana Association of Convention and Visitors Bureaus. “During the past three sessions, these pass throughs have greatly increased by 67 perecent. In Fiscal Year 2010-2011, pass throughs totaled $3.5 million and this year, more than $10.5 million is proposed.”
Michael Boudreaux, owner
of Juban's Restaurant and
LRA member testifies in
the House Appropriations
Committee defending the
tourism budget from
pass throughs.
Given Louisiana’s budget deficit, events like Essence Festival, the All State Sugar Bowl and the 2013 Women’s Final Four and the 2013 Super Bowl and others have been moved to the tourism budget to the tune of a proposed $10.5 million in Fiscal Year 2012-13. The tourism budget is currently funded exclusively through a statutorily dedicated $.003 percent of the state’s sales tax which was passed in 1990 and led by a coalition of tourism industry officials. The statutorily dedicated funds total roughly $23 million annually.

"Tourism funding is extremely important to the success of the restaurant industry in Louisiana,” said Michael Boudreaux, owner of Juban’s Restaurant in Baton Rouge and Louisiana Restaurant Association Board Member. “The more visitors we attract, the more jobs our industry can add. Pass throughs are detrimental to the purpose of the dedicated funding for tourism.”

Pass throughs divert monies dedicated from its intended purpose of promotion of the state’s tourism industry through the purchase of media advertisement, including but not limited to, newspaper, magazine, billboard, radio and television ads and to assist the state in the promotion of tourism.

In addition, this is the second fiscal year in a row that the tourism budget is being used to fund decentralized arts grants totaling $1.5 million that previously came from the general fund.  The Sports Hall of Fame and the Creole Heritage Museum in Natchitoches set to open in 2013, will receive $677,000 to fund the operational expense and the addition of seven positions under the current proposed budget.
Museums are funded entirely with general fund dollars and this deviation would set the precedent of using tourism dollars for the ongoing operational expenses of a state museum which is under the control of the State Museums and the Louisiana State Museum Board.

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