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HEARD ON THE BEAT / TOURISM

Tourism-Related Businesses to Vote on Marketing Tax

March 05, 1997|MARLA DICKERSON

Registration forms are being mailed to more than 300,000 California businesses this week in preparation for a June referendum on tourism marketing.

That's when tourism-dependent companies will get to decide whether to tax themselves to fund industrywide advertising to lure more travelers to the Golden State.

If the tax is approved, qualifying businesses will chip in 4.5 cents for every $100 of their tourism revenue to pay for the industry-sponsored campaign, much as the nation's dairy farmers do to promote milk consumption. The goal is to raise $7.5 million, which would double what California currently spends on tourism promotion.

But first, the state's tourism industry has to figure out who is qualified to vote and who isn't--thus the registration procedure. Businesses that derive less than 8% of their revenue from tourism are automatically exempt from the assessment and thus are ineligible to vote. Ditto for companies whose assessment would come to $50 or less, as the collection costs would exceed the amount collected. But that doesn't mean those businesses should bignore the registration process, since they'll risk the wrath of the Franchise Tax Board if they do.

Qualifying companies need to step up and be counted for two reasons, according to John Poimiroo, director of the California Division of Tourism. First off, they'll pay the tab if the referendum passes. And since votes are weighted based on the projected assessment to be paid, small operators in particular need to get out in force to make their voices heard. Second, most of the commissioners who'll decide how the money is spent will be elected based on the votes received from various industries.

Thus, if the state's hoteliers cast 40% of the weighted votes, they'll elect 40% of the commissioners from their ranks. "If you don't do this, you don't have a say," Poimiroo said. "Plus you'll still have to pay if it passes."

Businesses receiving a a registration form have 30 days to return it. Ballots will go out in June, and the results of the referendum should be known by mid-August.

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Marla Dickerson covers tourism for The Times. She can be reached at (714) 966-5670 and at marla.dickerson@latimes.com

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