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A few years ago, when the tourism advocates wanted the legislature to institute a statewide lodging tax, we argued that was a bad idea for smaller counties like ours that are not centers of tourism but rather event-driven markets. Think Wyoming State Fair.

The effort succeeded in the legislature mostly on the promise the state tourism board would be marketing all counties in Wyoming, not just focus on the Greater Yellowstone Area or Cheyenne Frontier Days.

So, here we are, two years later, and the Wyoming Tourism Board is looking at a budget nearly double what it had two years ago (from $23 million in the last biennium to $41.9 million this year) as that two percent statewide lodging tax has produced a tremendous amount of money for statewide marketing.

And what, exactly, have they done for counties like Converse in the last two years? What will they do in the next two? The answer to the first question is very little. Certainly nothing compared to the amount of money generated in our county from the lodging tax. The answer to the second will be equally as un-impressive, we predict.

So when Rep. Aaron Clausen, R-Douglas, proposed an amendment last week to divert $500,000 of that $19 million windfall to market the Wyoming State Fairgrounds specifically, it was a sound move to direct money back to where it would do some actual benefit to a place where more than $200,000 a year had been generated from the tax in previous years. His amendment, and others designed to control the tax-and-spend floodgates going to the state tourism board in the Legislature this session, was shot down.

Once again, non-tourism counties are shafted in this money grab by the state, leaving local tourism boards to fight over the scraps left. Thus, the Converse County Tourism Board is questioning how much they should ask from our voters in the coming election, given that the state has made sure it will get its piece of the pie no matter what.

– Matt Adelman

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