Our View: Time to let the smoke out of the room on restaurant tax




It's been 10 days since we learned that the effort to extend the county's 2-percent restaurant tax had died in the legislature. 


Since then, both city and county officials have said they are taking some deep breaths and allowing the smoke to clear before they plot their next move. Both local governments agree that the tax, which since first passed in 1986 has been used primarily to promote tourism, must be revived in some form, whether it is a joint effort by the county and city or a city-only tax. 


There is plenty of smoke remaining. 


Since October, the effort to extend the tax has been one marked by debate, dissension and, on occasion, disinformation. While local governments wonder what's next, members of our legislative delegation -- particularly Rep. Jeff Smith, Rep. Gary Chism and Sen. Chuck Younger, all of whom played prominent roles in the fate of the bill, have spent the past 10 days defending their actions and deflecting criticism. 


There's plenty of smoke to clear up. There are about four different versions of what happened, why it happened, who said what to whom and when it was said. 


With the exception of Chism, who said he will not vote for a new tax of any kind, all other parties agree that a restaurant tax is needed. 


But given the varying accounts of what happened to the current tax, we strongly believe that before any plans for a restaurant tax are discussed, all involved parties must meet to clear the air and let that "smoke" out of the room. 


We believe the first step should be to hold a public meeting for all parties who are stakeholders in this issue -- The Lowndes County Board of Supervisors, the Columbus City Council, the Columbus Lowndes Convention and Visitors Bureau Board of Directors, The Golden Triangle Development LINK and all legislators who represent the county -- Rep. Jeff Smith, Rep. Gary Chism, Rep. Kabir Karriem and Sen. Chuck Younger. 


Let's get everyone on the record as to what they believe, what they will or won't support and what actions each will commit to taking. 


Before anything else happens, we believe each of these stakeholders should be on the record on this subject and then held accountable for what they say. 


The fiasco that doomed our restaurant tax to failure cannot be allowed to happen again.



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