The Park Record editorial, November 28 December 1, 2009 |

The Park Record editorial, November 28 December 1, 2009

Restaurant tax works well as a local option in Summit County

There may have been some ambivalence when Summit County decided to impose state authorized one percent restaurant sales tax, but over the last 17 years that initial reluctance has turned into strong community support. In 2007 the tax generated $1.7 million that was distributed among 50 local nonprofit groups. So it comes as a shock that the state legislature may consider revoking the program when it convenes this January.

law, the revenues must be used to increase tourism and the pot is divvyed up annually based on the recommendations of a locally appointed committee and subject to County Council approval.

A partial list of the organizations that have received financial boosts from Summit County Restaurant Tax grants includes: the Sundance Film Festival, the Chamber/Bureau, the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association, the Performing Arts Foundation, the Park City Lodging and Restaurant associations, the Mountain Trails Foundation, the Park City Museum, Oakley City, the Kamas Valley Lions Club, the Peoa Town Park and the Summit County Fair.

So far, the only controversies surrounding the restaurant tax have had to do with who should get the money, not whether the money should be collected. And it doesn’t appear that the restaurants’ customers, whether local or from out of town, have objected to, or even noticed, the one-percent bump on their bills.

But the Utah Restaurant Association apparently finds the tax onerous and discriminatory. At the organization’s behest, a legislative panel recently approved a proposal to draft legislation that would revoke the restaurant tax and substitute it with a local option one-tenth of one percent general sales tax.

The philosophical rift between the Park City and Utah restaurateurs is based in part on the difference in their clientele. One facet of the restaurant tax that appeals to Summit County citizens is that the tax is generated in large part by visitors and does not affect the sales tax on necessities

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Leaders in other counties might rightfully claim that a restaurant tax would put an unfair burden on regular citizens a burden that should be shared equally among all businesses

But that is why the original legislation offered individual counties the choice to opt in or out.

The state should preserve the restaurant tax as an option for those counties where it has proven to be a successful economic development tool. Those who oppose the tax should take it up with their own county officials.