Branson tourist tax supporters, opponents gear up for vote

Tuesday, January 22, 2002

BRANSON, Mo. -- Branson voters will decide Feb. 5 whether to approve a one-cent tourism sales tax to help promote the area's tourist attractions.

Supporters say the tax would raise $9 million to $10 million annually, 95 percent of it from visitors. Supporters are going door-to-door and speaking at public meetings, trying to solidify support in advance of the vote.

But opponents look at the tax and see lost business.

Patricia Broeckling, manager of Tanger Outlet Center, said customers notice the amount of sales tax. She's afraid of losing customers from southwest Missouri and northwest Arkansas, who make up 20 to 30 percent of the center's business.

"Our wonderful expansion on U.S. 65 makes it so easy for our neighbors from Springfield to come down and shop, but that road goes two ways," she said.

Tourist attractions in Branson already pay a 4 percent tourism sales tax on top of the state sales tax. Those businesses would not pay the new sales tax.

Edd Akers, chairman of the pro-tax Community and Recreational Enhancement Initiative Inc., said: "A lot of people don't realize that their business really is dependent on tourism. ... We're just hoping that people will see the big picture."

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