Collections on local tourism taxes have increased 151 percent since 2004, according to an examination of data from the Mississippi Department of Revenue.
Cities and counties brought in more than $37 million in tourism tax revenue in 2004. In 2017, cities and counties collected more than $93 million in tourism tax revenue. According to the latest DOR data from April, the 83 tourism taxes in effect now have earned $81 million so far this fiscal year, which ends June 30. That's up from fiscal 2017, when collections at this point added up to to more than $77 million.
The reason is more cities and counties have convinced the Legislature to pass bills to authorize referendums for levies on restaurants and hotel stays. In 2004, there were 59 tourism-related taxes, but after July 1, the number of localities with the taxes will increase to 90.
The special local levies on restaurants and hotels began life as local and private bills in the Legislature. Local and private bills usually benefit a city or county in a legislator's district and are one of the last chores the Legislature wraps up before leaving town at session's end.
They require a referendum and usually have an expiration date three years after passage. The Legislature can reauthorize the taxes without any further referendums.
New tourism taxes passed this year include:
A 3 percent tourism tax on hotels in Richland to fund tourism and parks.
An addition to the existing tourism tax in Grenada of 1 percent on hotels and restaurants to fund construction, operation and maintenance of a sports park.
An additional 1 percent tax on hotels to fund park and tourism improvements in Clinton.
Moss Point will levy a 2 percent tax on restaurants to fund parks and tourism improvements.
Pearl will be able to charge a 3 percent tax on hotels and a 1 percent tax on restaurants to fund tourism and park improvements.
Vaiden will add a restaurant tax.
Hattiesburg will levy additional taxes on hotels and restaurants, with some of it going to fund tourism and parks improvements while other proceeds will go to the University of Southern Mississippi to fund athletic facility improvements.