La Crosse County to consider premier resort area sales tax

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LA CROSSE, Wis. (WEAU) -- Voters in La Crosse County will have the chance this April to weigh in on a proposed sales tax that would be added to certain businesses in the area.

It's called the "premier resort area tax," and it's been put to use in other parts of Wisconsin that attract lots of tourists.

The PRAT tax would add a 0.5% sales tax to businesses that attract tourists, like hotels, gift shops, and amusement parks.

The reason behind it is to help fund infrastructure needs on county trunk roads.

"People use our roads but aren't necessarily paying for them, especially if the way that the county pays for roads is on the backs of the property taxpayers," said Tara Johnson, La Crosse County Board Chair. "So we've been trying for a long time at La Crosse County to figure out a new solution, a different way to pay for roads."

Everyone would have to pay the sales tax, not just visitors.

The La Crosse County Highway Department says the tax could provide more than $6 million a year.

"It would start gaining us ground to the point where we would be able to do some of the maintenance to achieve the 30 year life that we're trying to achieve for highways, versus the non-sustainable borrowing option that we're currently doing for improvements," said Ron Chamberlain, La Crosse County Highway Commissioner.

About 800 businesses would be impacted by the PRAT tax.

The Chamber of Commerce is trying to educate those businesses before April.

"The businesses in some ways are just the collectors of it, however it impacts their total price that they are charging their customers and in a lot of cases that could cause them to be less competitive," said Vicki Markussen, Executive Director of the La Crosse Chamber of Commerce. "So that's the piece that we need to determine from the businesses is even though you're a collector of this tax what impact will it have?"

If April's referendum passes, the tax will still need approval from the state legislature and a two thirds vote from the county board.

It would then go through one more referendum vote.

The Chamber of Commerce is having an information meeting for businesses next Wednesday, February 22nd at 8 a.m. at the Associated Center.

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