Rep. Janet U. Maratita (R-Saipan) clarified that a proposed resort fee that she is pushing in the Legislature was not crafted to attack resorts and similar establishments but is only her take on revenue generation.
Maratita’s House Bill 21-67 seeks to impose a 5% resort fee on the amount charged for accommodations to temporary guests of a room in a hotel; lodging house; motel or resort motel; apartment motel; rooming house; bed and breakfast; condominium; or similar facilities in the CNMI.
“We have to keep up with the rest of the states and island-nations,” she told Saipan Tribune last Friday, citing Hawaii as an example. “…I know that this bill would [encounter] resistance from hoteliers…and that is understood. However, at this critical time in our Commonwealth, we need some revenue-generating legislation and I think it is time we assess tourists or visitors coming into the Commonwealth.”
According to Maratita, the resort fee will help the Marianas Visitors Authority enhance many of the CNMI’s tourist sites. She noted the Grotto as an example.
“Some 1,000 tourists visit the Grotto daily. The Grotto is in bad shape—there is fecal matter there and it’s contaminated. Where are we going to get this money to improve or solve the issue going on there?” she asked. “…We don’t have any fees for any of our historical sites or parks. There are just no fees for visitors. Everything is free. This is the land of the free, not the land of freebies. It’s about time we have something in place.”
Maratita noted that there is a similar fee imposed on Las Vegas visitors who stay in their resorts. The fee, according to Maratita, is also a state-mandated fee.
However, when asked, Maratita noted that she does not wish to mimic Las Vegas.
In a previous statement from House minority leader Rep. Ed Propst (Ind-Saipan), he noted that if the bill is passed, it would exceed Hawaii’s and Guam’s taxes on similar business establishments.
He noted that the 15% hotel occupancy tax, the 5% resort fee, and the annual 5% business gross revenue tax would make the CNMI have the highest taxes imposed on hotels and resorts than any other state or territory.
He recommended, instead, to tax the lone Saipan casino, which only pays 5% BGRT annually.
In response, Maratita told him to just submit a separate the bill for this. She added that other members of the House already co-sponsored her bill.
“He is free to do legislation to tax the casino. Nothing is preventing him from doing so. Nothing is preventing me from imposing a resort tax. I just did,” she said.
She added that she also previously introduced legislation to tax the casino.
During the 20th Legislature, Maratita sponsored House Bill 20-31, which sought to impose a 5% casino gaming revenue tax. That bill was not entertained.