House Speaker Sues Tampa Over Tourism Tax

TAMPA (970 WFLA) -- The City of Tampa is being sued by the guy who runs the Florida House of Representatives. 

Pasco County Republican Richard Corcoran filed his suit in Hillsborough Circuit Court, asking it to throw out a tourism levy brought about by the City of Tampa. Corcoran says the city passed an illegal bed tax on the downtown area and called it a "Tourism Marketing Assessment". "Basically, they've tacked on another $1.50 to the bed tax, which is capped at five percent... they have no authority to do that," Corcoran said. 

Corcoran describes the assessment as "spitting in the face of the Florida Constitution."

The assessment came about as state lawmakers, led by Corcoran, were going after spending by Visit Florida and other tourism promotion agencies. The initiative began last spring, when the Legislature was talking about gutting Florida tourism's budget, ultimately agreeing to deep cuts. It's set up by the City of Tampa, the hotel association and the county Tax Collector... voluntarily for everyone except the tourists who pay the tax. 

"If it looks like a tax, if it spends like a tax, if it's collected like a tax, it's a tax," Corcoran says. 

The idea of tourism marketing associations sprouted in California and other western states. Tampa's is the first known instance of such an association in Florida. 

Corcoran's lawsuit is praised by Americans for Prosperity, an organization founded by conservative activists David Koch and Karl Rove. AFP-Florida says that while "every little bit helps" hotel and tourism executives, the tax amounts to a "gouge" of customers and that the assessment leaves "less resources available to benefit the rest of the community." 

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