UPDATE: At The time this column was written, the session was ongoing. However, it has officially ended. It is still important, however, to hold your Republicans accountable in order to make sure this type of proposal doesn’t see the light of day again. Original column below.
As you wake up this morning, you need to take note of something if you live in Texas: Your legislative Republicans intend to raise your taxes without you knowing about it. What’s worse, their plan will not only punish people who like to use services meant to make traveling easier, they are doing so in a very thinly-veiled handout to corporate interests.
Here’s what is going down.
A bill in the state legislature, HB3579, would institute a fee on anyone who uses a service like Orbitz, Hotels.com, etc. to plan their vacation. When you book a hotel room in Texas, you are already assessed a tax on the hotel room, but now these Republicans in the state legislature want to double-tax you, whether you are a Texan booking a trip within your state or an out-of-state visitor coming in to see your family, on a business trip, etc.
And, again, this is a Republican-led effort.
Now, this is an issue that’s been brewing up for a couple of weeks. However, over the long weekend, word got out that the comptroller in Texas has been working overtime (apparently, the comptroller is not one for enjoying three-day weekends) to get the tax slipped into literally any bill that he could find in committee – meaning it’s not just an issue with one House bill, but any bill in a committee that is willing to tamper with it.
The big problem here isn’t just the double tax, but the corporate cronyism I mentioned. See, if you book a room at a Hilton through Hilton’s website, you won’t get assessed that fee. In fact, if you book any hotel’s room using that corporate hotel entity’s page, you won’t get assessed that fee. This is only for travel planning services like the ones mentioned above. Those services help travelers find the lowest prices on hotel rooms and other travel needs like flights, rental cars, etc. If you are forcing people to avoid those services, you are putting more business into the hands of the places that will no longer feel as great a need to compete in an open marketplace.
That’s about as un-conservative as you can get, folks. It’s not a free market solution. It’s directly influencing the market and putting major corporate interests ahead of the consumers.
The good news is that you can do something about it.
If you live in Texas, blow up the phone lines at the state capitol. You may also want to call Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who serves as the head of the state’s senate. Call the House members and call the Senate members. Call the Texas comptroller’s office. Heck, if you live out of the state but travel to Texas frequently, call them and let them know what business they’re losing out on by running you off to another state.
One thing that we as Americans tend to forget amid all the big political news we get fed daily is that we do have a voice, and this is one of those times you should use it.