I agree with Dax Schieffer's guest column of May 9 that we should welcome tourists to Montana for the reasons he gives. But in reality, tourists make little contribution to lowering the tax burden for locals: the $161 million he quotes for lodging taxes over seven years, lowering the tax burden for each Montana household by $491, pales into insignificance compared to the over $21 billion spent by nonresident tourists over the same period.
If we levied a sales tax of 6 percent, we would receive an annual tax contribution from this alone of over $200 million, considerably more than we receive from lodging taxes over seven years. Or to put it another way, every Montana household could have lower taxes of more than $491 every year rather than every seven years. And I doubt whether this would have much impact on tourist spending since most tourists come from states or countries with sales taxes often at much higher levels.
Perhaps locals would feel more welcoming towards tourists if they felt these tourists were making a fair and real contribution to the services and infrastructure they use while in Montana via a sales tax rather than relying on these to be paid for by locals.