Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed, D-Newport, said the tax, set to take effect Oct. 1, will hurt the state’s tourism economy and should be repealed. Paiva Weed said she’ll introduce a bill in next year’s legislative session to do it.
The General Assembly voted two months ago to impose the state’s 7 percent sales tax on tickets for sightseeing tours, including bus and boat tours.
Although she voted for it in June, Paiva Weed said Tuesday that she now believes the tax “makes no sense.” She noted that tourism jobs represent nearly 10 percent of the state’s employment.
“We should be doing everything we can to support this vital industry,” she said in a statement. “I will work to ensure that the tax is reversed.”
Paiva Weed’s announcement was welcome news to Karen Oakley, an owner of Newport-based Viking Tours, a family-owned company that operates tourist trolleys, charter trips and bus tours. Oakley said worries about the impact of the tax prompted her to rethink plans to buy two new trolleys and hire extra employees for next summer.
“Tourism is a very competitive business, especially in this economy,” Oakley told The Associated Press. “People can easily go somewhere else, and these taxes have an impact. There could have been other ways to balance the budget without hurting this fragile industry.”
But making up for $1.1 million in lost revenue won’t be easy, said House Speaker Gordon Fox, D-Providence. Fox said he will review Paiva Weed’s proposal, but he isn’t willing to commit to repealing the tax.
“It’s a thin budget,” he said. “Are you going to repeal the tax and replace it with another tax? Are you going to replace it with cuts?”