The minority bloc in the House of Representatives is preparing to meet to discuss their position on a recently introduced resort fee, which, if passed, would make the CNMI impose the highest hotel or lodging tax in all of the United States.
Rep. Tina Sablan (Ind-Saipan) told Saipan Tribune Wednesday that the minority bloc of the House, which consists of minority leader Rep. Ed Propst (Ind-Saipan), Rep. Sheila Babauta (Ind-Saipan), Rep. Joseph Arriola Flores (Ind-Saipan), Rep. Richard Lizama (Ind-Saipan), Rep. Donald Manglona (Ind-Tinian), and Rep. Edmund Villagomez (Ind-Saipan), would be convening to discuss their position on Rep. Janet Maratita’s (R-Saipan) House Bill 21-67, which seeks to impose a 5% resort fee in addition to the 15% hotel occupancy tax and 5% Business Gross Revenue Tax, or BGRT, on hotels in the CNMI.
Propst told Saipan Tribune that, if passed, the CNMI would exceed even Guam and Hawaii in taxing hotel or lodging establishments.
“If we add on another 5% hotel tax to the current 15%, we will have the highest hotel or lodging tax in the entire nation and all her territories,” he said, adding that Guam only imposes 11% tax on lodging establishments and Hawaii 10.25%.
“How do we even match up to these premiere destinations right now? I am deeply disappointed that we are looking at taxing hotels at 20% but won’t even consider a 5% gaming tax for the casino industry on Saipan,” he said. “It is important to remind the people of the Commonwealth that we are the only place in the world that has zero gross gaming revenue taxes.”
The casino pays the regular 5% BGRT tax, like any other business establishment.
Sablan, commenting on H.B. 21-67, told Saipan Tribune that she wishes to see evidence of increased enforcement of the hotel occupancy tax on bed and breakfast establishments.
“I’d also like us to move forward with legislation to finally impose a gaming tax. …Right now, there is no gaming tax in effect at all, which makes no sense whatsoever, given the social, economic, and infrastructure impacts of that industry on our community. The revenues generated from that tax could be applied to supporting our critical infrastructure and public services,” she said.
H.B. 21-67 is currently in the House Ways and Means Committee, chaired by Rep. Ivan A. Blanco (R-Saipan). As of Tuesday, Blanco said the bill is still under review and his office is soliciting comments from the Public School System, Northern Marianas College, Department of Finance, Hotel Association of the NMI, the Marianas Visitors Authority, and the Saipan Chamber of Commerce.
The 5% resort tax, according to the bill, will be split among five agencies.