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Saturday, August 20, 2011

We're no. 1!

Portland's come out on top of a list as the very worst place in the country for discriminatory taxes on travelers. The taxes in question are probably going to pay for the Vera Katz Wing of the Convention Center, which is almost always empty.

Those poor tourists. But according to another study, they should think of it as a value proposition -- they might get lucky while they're here.

Comments (18)

Spring 2011 I had occasion to have to rent a 15 passenger van for a day to transport a group on a tour of some local facilities.

Enterprise has a location about 8 blocks over, on Barbur Blvd., in SW Portland, in Multnomah County. Looked at cost there.

Enterprise has another location about a mile and a half further out Barbur / Pacific Highway in Tigard, Washington County. Looked at cost there.

Exact same vehicle. Huge difference in cost, all of it Portland City and Multnomah County taxes.

Cost is a huge issue for the little 501 c 3 which was paying for the rental for its program.

Easy decision.

Probably an equally easy decision for convention planners who are choosing between the Portland Convention Center and a facility in Orange County, CA., as well.

The study doesn't really quantify the results, i.e., no definitive list of the "discriminatory taxes" that result in the rankings.

Having traveled a bit, virtually every locale has room/occupancy and rental car taxes. BUT, the traveler also gets hit repeatedly on paying sales tax for every purchase. Of course, that is not the case in Oregon.
The survey results may be based on the actual taxing rates for each category, but I'm unsure.

When friends come to Oregon as first-time visitors, they are uniformly shocked at these two realities:
a. we are fobidden to pump our own gas at retail stations
b. we have no state and/or city sales tax.

In The Economist article, Portland and Minneapolis are singled out in the list as cities without great attractors which charge high taxes on tourist / traveler oriented goods and service.

After last Wednesday's farcical vote in City Council, Portland and Minneapolis will both be proud operators of bike share programs.

There has to be a link.

Go figure.

Time Magazine says we're the most over-sexed city in America? I think that calls for a group moan.

Plus, it explains the agenda at the next City Council meeting, where they'll vote on a clothes removal fee.

Yeah, but we don't have a sales tax.

Another huge issue to conventions coming to PDX is the arcane OLCC rules that say that all drinks (even at hosted events) are by the glass and not by bottles and mixers consumed (the way it's done in cities with successful convention business).

I'm not positive this is relevant to OLCC rules now, but here's a story from a while back:
The Bee Gees were staying at a hotel downtown where I worked. I saw one out walking around by the pool, and you could tell everything he was wearing cost major bucks: The swimsuit, the sandals, the white jacket, the hat, the shades, the jewelry. I remember thinking - forget the jewelry - the clothes alone could be a couple of grand. He looked like he was walking around on a very expensive yacht.
Throw in the golden tan, and he was basically screaming, "I'm a giant music star. Deal with it."

Anyway, I heard they ordered a bottle of booze and were shocked at the price. It had to be sold by the drink so it was several hundred bucks, and the Bee Gees were not going for it. They hired someone to go to the liquor store for them and score a bottle at the regular price. Rich as they were, they weren't crazy.

Nonny, you live in my 'hood. Trail tip, if you need to fly out of PDX: Go to Beavertown or Tigard, rent a car, drive out to PDX and drop it there. I usually rent the day before, park at my house, then do the drop-off. So little gas is used that you don't get charged; the tank still reads as "full".

Bill, what's a "Bee Gee"? I thought you might be going all porno on us here, but then you said something about "giant music star".

I always get my hookers in Portland instead of the 'Couv because of the sales tax issue.

John Wins

All I know is that when you rent a car at the PDX airport; the City or County Tax on the rental is one of the highest I've encountered anywhere.

Portland actually has the third lowest total travel tax in the country. That's not saying discriminatory taxes are nice but your total bill will be less in Portland than most any other city.

These rankings magazines do really obfuscate issues. I'm getting tired of them.


Sewohs: Do you work for that money loser of a Convention Center? Or is it some other public financial sinkhole? Try on $22.00 in taxes and fees on a $28.00 a day auto rental from Thrifty
last November...

Oregbear and sewohs have hinted at the points that make the information in this article completely irrelevant, though it is pretty obvious from the language quoted in The Economist.

"[D]iscriminatory travel taxes and fees enacted on travel-related services impose an average increased cost on visitors of 56% over general sales tax."

We have no general sales tax... The study (which I have not purchased and so can not state exactly how their math works) appears to be discussing taxes on travelers that are not imposed on residents. That's all well and good, but has nothing to do with total taxes levied on travelers, or the incredibly important OTHER SIDE OF THE COIN: taxes imposed on residents but NOT travelers.

Typically the bloggers at The Economist consider what they're writing about. Not this time.

Also, remember the source: http://www.gbta.org/foundation/about/Pages/whoweare.aspx

This is just a lobbyist/propaganda/advocacy group for business travelers. Their research is likely dreadfully biased, and meant to pressure municipalities into removing a particular group of taxes which disturb their constituents. Not credible.

The solution is simple.

Build the damn Convention Center Hotel. Then all will be perfect and good in the world, we'll have conventions just tripping over themselves to come to Portland; the Convention Center will be booked three years in advance and our economy will just be through the roof with all of the economic impact.

Taxes. Sheesh. We all know Oregon is a low-tax state, especially since we don't have a sales tax, and we have so many tax incentives for businesses to come to Oregon - it's foolish NOT to think of Oregon for your next business or convention.

It's okay though - tourists may be taxed the most in Portland, but there isn't that many of them, so the overall burden is quite low!

The answer is clearly to scare away the rest of the tourists by raising taxes further! We're already taxing the crap out of them more than anywhere else, so we don't need to worry about moving up the list even further than #1!

This is exactly what Portland will produce. There is no stopping it.

In about 6 or 7 years Jack will have a blog post like this with the only difference being the names of "stakeholeders" and "partners".


If the convention center were a business, it would be reporting that during 2010 it lost $1,400,000 on revenue of $1,300,000, with operating costs the total of both. The tragedy is that taxpayer dollars seem to be considered somehow different than business dollars.

Meanwhile, the Penn Square Partners keep their revenue figures a closely-guarded secret, even though they are operating rent-free in a taxpayer-owned building. They are paying down a $24 million construction bond for their building, in addition to their initial $11 million “equity” investment to furnish and equip the hotel. The total cost of the hotel building was in excess of $76 million, with taxpayers funding the balance.

That’s not all.

Adding insult to injury, the hotel receives ALL revenue from the third and fourth floor ballroom and meeting rooms, even though these spaces were built and are being maintained by taxpayers. Many events have already been held in the “convention center” where the organizers and attendees had no idea that their money was going directly to the Penn Square Partners.

But wait, there’s more!

100% of the hotel’s kitchen was built and is being maintained by taxpayers, as is the connection between the parking garage and the hotel lobby, half of the hotel lobby (including the piano!), and portions of Interstate Hotels and Resorts’ offices. The public also has total responsibility for both the Queen Street lobby and the Vine Street lobby.

All of these – and much, much more – are a part of the agreements negotiated by Stevens & Lee with the Penn Square Partners on behalf of the Lancaster County Convention Center Authority (taxpayers).

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