Ramsey council narrowly approves lodging tax

Guests of the Ramsey Comfort Suites could soon be paying a little more for their stay.

As the request of the business’ general manager, the Ramsey City Council voted 4-3 to introduce a lodging tax and allowing for membership in the Twin Cities Gateway (TCG) Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB).

Mayor Bob Ramsey and Councilmembers Colin McGlone and Jason Tossey were against it.

The proposed lodging tax would impose a 3 percent sales tax on guest stays, which would be collected by Comfort Suites, the city’s only hotel.

The business would be required to send the taxes it collects to the city to pay for TCG membership.

Five percent of the proceeds will be kept by the city for administrative costs and the remaining 95 percent will be go to TCG to promote the city and the hotel to tourists and conventions.

It is an underhanded use of government to promote a business and get people to come to Ramsey, said Tossey.

While the city can withdraw from the TCG with a six-month notice and repeal the lodging tax, no tax really goes away, he said.

Taxpayers are still paying for the Metrodome and the Minneapolis Convention Center, Tossey said.

“I don’t understand why we would impose a tax on someone,” he said.

Even if the city was to get roughly $1,200 a year to receive the lodging tax money check from the hotel and write a check to TCG, “I don’t like this at all,” said Ramsey.

On principle, Councilmember Randy Backous agreed with Tossey, but he said this is at the request of the only existing business that would be impacted by the tax and it would draw visitors to the region.

Right now, people going to the National Sports Center in Blaine are being referred to hotels in Bloomington, he said.

It will make Ramsey Comfort Suites more competitive, Backous said.

The lodging tax and TCG members is another tool in the toolbox, especially in this economy, said Councilmember Sarah Strommen.

Perhaps in the future hotels will not require the cities to pass lodging taxes or sign up for CVBs, as required by state statue, she said.

“This is a broken system. It’s not something the state Legislature should be doing something like this. It’s ridiculous,” Ramsey said.

Tammy Sakry is at [email protected]