COEUR d'ALENE - Either or, the Lake City is on board.
The city of Coeur d'Alene is supporting a pair of possible law changes that would give cities the authority to collect additional taxes.
But before calling the support a flat out tax increase, officials said either avenue could reduce the tax burden for locals.
Either avenue could also allow Coeur d'Alene to implement a resort tax - a tax on hotels, motels and other tourist targets that some smaller Idaho cities use as a way to collect revenues from visitors.
"I don't want to impede tourism, that's not the point," said Mike Kennedy, city councilman. "It would allow us to ask the voters if they would support a bed tax to have tourism pay for itself in ways it hasn't previously."
One option to do that is to remove the size limit currently in place on the resort tax.
That law, which should be a discussion point in Boise this legislative session, allows towns with populations below 10,000 - like Kellogg and Ketchum - to add a sales tax on top of the state's 6 percent rate. With voter approval, those towns can add sales tax increases on tourism targeted items.
Removing the cap would allow Coeur d'Alene, population 46,000, to put similar options before its voters.
The other route allows cities a local option sales tax.
That option, like bonds, would allow cities to increase sales taxes across the board to pay for specific projects or to go directly to property tax relief, closing after a specific time frame. Unlike bonds, however, revenues from the sales taxes would come from anyone who spends money inside the city, not just city residents, as bonds target.
Ketchum, for example, adds a 1 percent sales tax on top of the state's 6 percent.
If either option becomes law this year, a specific ballot would have to be crafted at the city level should municipalities want to bump a tax, and voters would have the ultimate say.
The city agreed to support both measures last week as a way to support local control.
"It's OK with me if people vote to raise their own taxes," said Dan Gookin, city councilman.
The Post Falls Chamber of Commerce supports both as well. The Coeur d'Alene Chamber of Commerce hasn't given its nod of approval on the sales tax option this year, although the Idaho Chamber Alliance, to which it belongs, has. In the past, the Coeur d'Alene chamber has supported the sales tax route because it's project specific and sunsets, as opposed to a bed tax, which typically stays on the books indefinitely.
The sales tax option could be headed for a ballot this November if proponents collect enough signatures to get it there. The idea has died at the Legislature - never making it out of committee for several years - so enough signatures could skip that step.
But some hotels feel that pinpointing tourism for extra money is an unfair burden for their industry. They say one business shouldn't be targeted to pay for citywide projects. It could also backfire, by driving away tourists, they said. Kellogg voters rejected a resort tax proposal in November.
"It's not right to tax any one industry," said Jerry Jaeger, president and co-owner of the Hagadone Hospitality Company, which oversees nearly 700 hotel rooms in North Idaho and hosts hundreds of conferences every year. "What we ought to be doing is figuring out a way to get more tourists to Coeur d'Alene, not punishing them for coming here."
Added to that, a 2 percent tax on the industry is already collected by the state for the Idaho Travel Council. Ten percent of that is used for administration costs, 45 percent goes to promote travel statewide and the remaining 45 percent goes to regional grants, he said.
Austin Skubi, manager of the Resort City Inn in Coeur d'Alene, said he sympathizes with both sides of the argument. In charge of running a motel, it does seem unfair to single out one industry, he said, but on the other hand travelers tend to be willing to spend a few extra dollars while on the road.
"You have to give a little to get a little," he said of the potential revenues aiding the city. "I'd rather have a nice city that people can enjoy than not have them come at all."