Downtown convention hotel bill fails in House

Published: Thursday, March 14 2013 10:55 p.m. MDT

Attendees listen in gallery to legislators meet during the final day of legislature at the Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City Thursday, March 14, 2013.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — A bill that would have provided tax credits for the development of a hotel near the Salt Palace Convention Center was narrowly defeated in the House on Thursday night.

SB267, sponsored Rep. Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, passed the Senate on Monday but failed in the House with a 35-39 vote.

"We are losing millions and millions of dollars a year and thousands of jobs because we do not have a convention space adequate enough," Wilson said. "The expectation is that this hotel should generate $600 million over the next couple of decades."

The bill would have implemented a 20-year, post-performance property tax for the developers of the hotel, similar to the rebate given to companies such as Adobe that have relocated and invested in the state.

"The way the bill is structured, there is no up-front expenditure of taxpayer dollars," said Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams, who backed the bill. "This is a significant upside for tourism and economic development in Utah."

McAdams said dozens of other cities have built hotels under similar plans, and Salt Lake City is losing dozens of convention bids every year without a major convention hotel property.

The bill received support from representatives on both sides of the aisle who said it would be good for the economic growth of the entire state.

"If we don't participate in the future of our state, then we're willing to settle for the status quo," said House Majority Leader Brad Dee, R-Ogden.

Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Millcreek, said from her experience helping to run a small hotel in southern Utah, the bill would be good for businesses across the state.

"I know when a major convention hits Salt Lake, it has a major impact on our business," Arent said.

But many representatives expressed their concerns about the bill, particularly about the impact on existing downtown hotels.

"This is a classic example of government picking winners and losers," said Rep. Brian Greene, R-Pleasant Grove, "and the losers are the ones who have been here for decades."

Rep. Jacob Anderegg, R-Orem, echoed Greene's concerns.

"You're hanging out all of the people who have already invested," Anderegg said. "It's bad policy, and we should not be in the business."

E-mail: mmellor@deseretnews.com

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