Utah County property owners might not have to foot the bill for a special events center at UVCC because of proposed tax, B1.Ronald McDonald told lawmakers Tuesday that fast-food restaurant owners "deserve a break today" from a proposed restaurant tax - which the owners association says it considers "baloney" - and he passed out bologna sandwiches to make his point.
Instead, the Utah House of Representatives voted to allow counties to impose a 1 percent tax on food and beverages sold by restaurants "for immediate consumption." Food prepared in any coffee shop, cafeteria, luncheonette, soda fountain or fast-food outlet could also be taxed under the new bill.Tax revenue raised in Salt Lake County, for example, would be used for the operation and maintenance of the Salt Palace, which convention officials say is too small and outdated to attract convention business.
Tax generated in other counties under the bill would be earmarked for the development and maintenance of tourism, recreation, cultural and convention facilities within the county of origin. For example, Weber County could use the money to renovate and maintain the Egyptian Theatre in Ogden.
Coined the "sandwich tax," by the Utah Restaurant Association,the bill was approved by a 49-19 vote of the House and sent to the Senate for further consideration.
Association members and mascots of fast-food chains delivered to lawmakers sack lunches stuffed with "baloney sandwiches" to protest HB438, sponsored by Majority Leader Rob Bishop, R-Brigham City.
Association president Ron Morgan said he was aware of no other state that taxes restaurant patrons to provide operating revenue for convention facilities.
"Local restaurant owners strongly support economic development and tourism in Utah. They believe, however, that operation and maintenance costs associated with convention facilities such as the Salt Palace should be paid by the user," Morgan said.
Referring to the dozens of sacks of bologna sandwiches stacked atop House members desks, Bishop commented that the bill was not perfect but the best compromise that could be achieved. "All of those involved in the process aren't totally happy with the situation we have," he said. Incidentally, the sandwiches were later donated to local homeless shelters.
The bill also would allow Salt Lake County to impose a half-cent tax on hotel rooms. Proceeds of the tax would be used to fund tourism promotion activities. Hotels and motels in Salt Lake County already charge 10.35 percent tax on all rooms.
HB438 addresses only operations and maintenance revenue for the convention center, Bishop said. The Brigham City educator also is sponsor of HB437, which calls for a $15 million appropriation to fund Salt Palace renovations and expansion. The appropriation would be funded out of supplemental funds.
Proponents of the renovations say the expansion will bring $539 million in convention business to the state over a six-year period. However, state auditors could not substantiate the claim in a recent audit.
The Salt Lake County Commission wants to build the Salt Palace in phases, including a 40,000-square-foot ballroom, 50,000 square feet of convention space, renovation of existing facilities and begin a master plan this year.
The state and Salt Lake City have each committed $15 million to the project and the county will assume the rest of the costs, which will be greater because of the bonding costs the county will incur in raising its share of the money, said county lobbyist Allan Moll.
Commissioners will wait until 1992 to decide what to do with Acord Arena, which will not be used for professional sports events or concerts upon the completion of Larry H. Miller's new Jazz arena this fall.